Libya’s internationally-recognized parliament postponed on Tuesday a key vote on the UN-backed unity government, due to the lack of a quorum and amid fierce fighting in the ill-fated session.
Lawmakers who support the unity government said they were heckled, shouted at and handed threats by a minority within the legislature that is against the joint body and wanted to prevent the vote from taking place.
When the numbers rose above the required quorum of at least 90 MPs, fighting broke out within the chamber of House of Representatives. Some lawmakers even climbed onto the president’s podium, forcing HoR president Agila Saleh to cancel the session.
At least 90 members of the House of Representatives need to be present for the vote to go ahead. The 18-member joint body just needs a simple majority to pass.
Head of the presidency council and Prime Minister designate Faiez Serraj had previously presented a 32-member council which was rejected by the HoR in January for being too large, and so ineffective.
Serraj presented a truncated version on 17 February but two of his suggested ministers – Fakhir Abufarna, put forward for Minister of Finance, and Muhannad Yunis, the proposed State Minister for Martyrs, Injured and Missing – turned down the roles, forcing a rethink.
With the new list of names presented to the parliament this week, the legislature wrapped up the debate on Monday on the line-up and policies of the new government ahead of the Tuesday vote.
However the session was postponed to next week amid fighting, led by lawmakers who fear that the new unity government will shift power from the east to the west of the county, where it is due to be based in Tripoli. There are also fears that divisive General Khalifa Haftar will be sidelined.
The international community hopes that the joint government will end an 18-month civil war that has wracked the country since 2014 – when armed coalition Libya Dawn swept control of Tripoli and set up their own rival administration.
A December UN authored peace deal outlined the joint body – which includes representatives from all warring factions and was chosen by the specially designated Presidency Council.
But the council had itself been plagued with walkouts. Deputy Minister Ali al-Gitrani and State Minister Omar al-Aswad both boycotted the sessions and refused to sign off on the cabinet because they said certain “fundamental principles” were being neglected, including commitment to the Libyan army and its leadership.