The HoR has to vote confidence in the GNA before its term starts. However, the UN and the international community have long been acting as if the approval of the GNA is certain. There have been UN meetings planning aid to the GNA. GNA officials such as prime minister designate Faiez Serraj have long been holding meetings with international officials even though the GNA does not really function until approved by the HoR. The meeting to vote on the GNA has been postponed until next week, perhaps on Monday.
On Saturday debate began with prime minister-designate Faiez Serraj presenting the smaller cabinet to the HoR. The original GNA list was rejected by the HoR as being too large at 32 ministers. The new list has 13 ministries plus five ministers of state. The discussion on Saturday became so heated that president of the HoR, Ageela Salah, suspended the meeting until Sunday. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG), Martin Kobler, flew to Tobruk on Sunday and had meetings Salah and also the prime minister-designate of the GNA Faiez Serraj. The meeting was postponed until Monday. Nevertheless, the meeting was again postponed until Tuesday. Apparently, it looked as if the vote might not go as the UN wished. The UN and the international community are waiting anxiously for the GNA to be up and running so it can ask for foreign military intervention against the Islamic State.
Typical media mainstream “professional” organizations such as the AFP just repeat the narrative presented by officials from the HoR. The headline is “Lack of quorum scuppers Libya confidence vote.” Following this in the AFP article we have:
“The required quorum (89 members of parliament) was not reached, so the president of the chamber adjourned the session,” MP Mohamed al-Abbani told AFP. Another parliamentarian, Ali Al-Qaidi, confirmed that “the necessary quorum was not reached, and the session for the vote was adjourned until next week”. There is no checking with other sources which contradict this narrative.
The Libya Herald, which is actually in Libya, notes the lack of quorum is the official reason there was no vote. but according to another member, Saad Al-Hashmi, there were between 130 to 140 members present at the meeting. This was more than a quorum and even sufficient to generate the 126 votes to incorporate the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) into the Constitutional Declaration if all voted in favor of that.
The Herald claims that there are deepening divisions within the HoR over some of the ministers. Mohammed Siaia of the foreign ministry, and Al-Hadi Al-Juhaimi of planning both remained Qadaffi supporters long after the revolution had started against his regime, and Arif Khojja the Interior Minister has links to the former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group led by Abdulhakim Belhaj. However, the opposition also opposes the nine-member Presidency Council and wants a return to just three, as in the original LPA. The opposition thinks that the nine members will generate squabbles within the council.
The recent successes of commander-in-chief Khalifa Haftar on the military front may increase the support for the pro-Haftar group who are demanding changes in the LPA. However, Martin Kobler, has continually insisted it cannot be changed.
The Libya Observer, which generally favors the rival General National Congress government, also reported on the failure of the HoR to vote approval for the GNA. The Observer does not mention a lack of quorum but simply notes that there were several threats of violence. Some PC members allegedly threatened to kill some of the MPs if they approved the new cabinet. Martin Kobler, SRSG, tweeted: “HoR members must not be intimidated or threatened. All have to decide in free will.” In public the UN often uses moral suasion to try to get its way but also the threat of sanctions against those blocking the peace process. The UK ambassador to Libya, and the U.S. also chimed in to condemn the threats of violence. The Observer claims that disputes in the HoR have resulted in not just threats, accusations, and swearing, but accusations that some members have been bribed.
An editorial by Sami Zaptia of the Libyan Herald goes into more detail about what allegedly happened during the meeting today of the HoR. He claims the Cyrenaica/Federalist group in the HoR who oppose the GNA disrupted the proceedings and were able to force a postponement until next week. He claims the group are only about 10 members who shouted, insulted, threatened during the session to ensure that no vote took place. He claims they also tried unsuccessfully to prevent members from entering the chamber and forming a quorum.
According to Zaptia’s narrative they were unable to prevent the formation of a quorum, but continued to disrupt proceedings. In the end they ascended the president’s podium and were able to physically prevent HoR president Ageel Salah from taking a vote. This strikes me as bizarre. Earlier proceedings were covered live by Libyan TV. What is described should be registered on video. You would think that given the tension on the issue, there would be adequate security to prevent what is described. Why wasn’t there such security?
The numbers present, according to sources Zaptia used, were from 97 to 100. While this would be above the quorum of 93, it would not be sufficient to have a vote on the Constitutional Declaration amendment. Zaptia continues:
HoR member Fawzia Abughalia confirmed the events of the day and that there was a quorum and that a majority of members were ready to exercise a vote, but that the Federalists used force to prevent it going ahead. At one point during proceedings, electricity to the building was deliberately cutoff plunging the chamber into darkness. HoR member Muad Rafa Masoud also confirmed the day’s chaos and said that 95 members have signed a document announcing their support for the GNA as well as an undertaking to move the HoR vote to the central region of Jufra.The Herald is often favorable to the GNA and it may be that Zaptia is spinning events in the way that he wants.
No one mentions the deletion of Section 8 from the LPA any more even though this was a key demand of the HoR when it rejected the earlier GNA ministries. The section makes the Presidency Council commander in chief of the Libyan National Army, immediately upon a vote of approval of the GNA. This would remove Khalifa Haftar from his job, a position opposed by supporters of Haftar. The UN and many foreign countries are becoming more and more frustrated at the failure of the GNA to be up and running. We should soon know what type of reaction the UN and the GNA have to these new events.