Op-Ed: Libya constitution could be adopted with no referendum

Posted May 3, 2016 by Ken Hanly
The Libya Observer reports on leaks from a source in the Libyan Constitutional Drafting Assembly indicating that members who favor the draft intend to send a letter to the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) to cancel polls for the draft.
Libya's Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj presents the programme of his new national uni...
Libya's Prime Minister-designate Fayez al-Sarraj presents the programme of his new national unity government before the parliament on February 20, 2016 in Tobruk
Abdullah Doma, AFP/File
Press Solidarity reported the leaks were confirmed. The news outlet was told that the referendum on the constitution was not needed since the Constitutional Drafting Assembly (CDA) was elected by the people. If their proposal was approved by the HoR and the constitutional declaration of 2011 was amended, then the draft approved by the CDA could be considered the permanent Libyan constitution. If this suggestion is adopted, there will be even more conflict and division within Libya as the present draft is rejected by many residents in the western region where the majority of Libyans live. There are a number of western representatives of the CDA who have boycotted meetings and reject this draft, complaining that the whole process of approval is illegal. The boycotters also say the draft ignores general principles of citizenship and enshrines regionalism in the constitution.
There were a number of meetings of the CDA in Oman. There were 11 members of the CDA not present at the meetings. They object to the division of jobs and positions on the basis of the three traditional divisions of Libya with Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east, and Fezzan in the south. Tripolitani contains two thirds of the Libyan population. Members of the judiciary have also objected to the draft, complaining that the independence of the judiciary is not in the draft as they had recommended. I noted in an article on the meetings; Articles to be included in the draft constitution must be approved by a vote of two-thirds plus one or 41 votes. There are only 33 members in the sessions in Oman according to the Libya Herald. There are not enough to pass any articles. There are only 41 members altogether taking part in CDA proceedings. In other words they need all to be present and all vote in favor of any article for it to be adopted. A number of members of the CDA refused to travel to Oman. They said the discussions could have taken place in Libya just as easily.
After the CDA returned they met again in Bayda. Martin Kobler issued a press release praising their work. In the release he says that boycotting is not an alternative. What he meant is it would not make any difference. The CDA had just rewritten its own rules for a quorum: An article in the Libya Observer reports that a number of the boycotting members claim all the CDA meetings held in Oman and in Bayda "are illegal and a sheer violation of the constitutional declaration as well as the internal regulations of the CDA." A statement by the group said: “The CDA does not have the right or the authority to amend the quorum whatsoever because the amendment is one of the jobs of the legislative authority.” When the CDA returned from Oman it held a meeting in Bayda at which it decided it would amend the quorum required for the passage of any item in the draft. I presume it made the rule retroactive, thus legitimizing the motions made in Oman. The strategy appears to be this: if the rules are inconvenient, then ignore them or rewrite them. Deciding not to have a vote on the constitution is just another example of the same strategy. It is probably a strategy copied from and approved by the UN.