Libya’s Parliament on Monday rejected the cabinet proposed by the UN-backed unity government earlier this year, in a further setback for the already stalled national dialogue.
61 members of the House of Representatives (HoR) voted against granting the cabinet confidence, while 1 voted in favor and 32 abstained, HoR Spokesman Abdallah Blihaq told Libya Channel after the session held in the HoR’s new headquarters in Tobruk.
HoR President Agila Saleh declared Parliament was giving the Prime Minister of the Government of National Accord (GNA), Faiez Serraj, one last chance to form a consensual government with a reduced number of ministries.
Just before the vote, Serraj had sent an open letter to the HoR Presidency asking to delay the confidence vote until the cabinet was complete. Four ministers of the 18 chosen on February 14 – the second cabinet proposal – did not show up for work in Tripoli and were thus officially dismissed last month.
The HoR also reminded that the Presidency Council – the 9-member body heading the GNA – will only be legitimate if its two boycotting members – deputy PM Ali al-Gitrani and Minister of State Omar al-Aswad – return. Both men left in January deploring political and regional biases.
While – according to the HoR Presidency – enough MPs were present on Monday to meet the simple majority quorum required for the GNA vote, there were not enough attendees for the second vote needed to legally endorse the GNA – the amendment of the 2011 Constitutional Declaration. This amendment would consist of references to the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) signed in Skhirat, Morocco, last December.
The second vote, which requires a two-thirds plus one MP quorum, was thus postponed.
In its first voting session on the subject of the GNA, on 25 January, the HoR overwhelmingly rejected Faiez Serraj’s first cabinet – which then comprised 32 ministries, while approving the LPA on conditions that Article 8 was removed. Article 8 stipulates that heads of key institutions – including the Army chief of Staff – should be reappointed by the GNA.
In February, a second voting session descended into chaos when MPs accused one another of manipulating procedures and numbers, and GNA-proponents signed a written statement endorsing the GNA. Since then the HoR has gathered to vote numerous times but never reached the quorum. Many of the 200 MPs who were elected in Feb 2014 are boycotting parliamentary sessions in Tobruk. Recently MPs had been demanding that the quorum be adapted to the number of members attending Tobruk sessions.
In the view of some MPs Monday’s vote should have meant the end for the GNA. According to the 2011 Constitutional Declaration, the head of State (now interpreted as head of Parliament) has the right to appoint a new prime minister in case of two votes of non confidence.
“The result of this vote reflects our dissatisfaction with the [unity] government…and the opinion of the Libyan people”, said MP Idriss Omran as he took the microphone during the session. He added that the resignation of four of the GNA’s proposed ministers showed that there was no consensus within the unity government. The HoR and the Interim Government in Bayda must be in charge of steering the country until the GNA is granted confidence, he said.
Several MPs present in Monday’s session criticised the last-minute change of agenda. Initially the meeting was supposed to discuss the draft of Libya’s new Constitution and internal HoR regulations.
“I am not defending this government, if it falls it falls. But the way this session was done is not correct, said MP Mohamed Adam Linu, arguing that the final agenda should have been distributed prior to the session. “The fears of boycotting MPs were founded – there is no trust between MPs and the HoR Presidency. Many MPs are not present today, but they have the right to vote on this matter”, Linu added.
Agila Saleh retorted that the agenda had been on the table for months and it was the MPs fault if they did not attend sessions.
The debate on the vote continued on Libya Channel’s Newsroom Monday night.
HoR Rapporteur Saleh Galma said MPs had the right to object to the voting. “I am the HoR rapporteur and even I was unaware of the decision to vote on the government in today’s session”, he claimed.
MP Abdessalam Nasiya however argued that the HoR had not held a formal session since January and that therefore Monday’s session could be considered a resumption of the last session with the same agenda.
On a more positive note, Libyan Political Dialogue member Ahmed al-Abar said the vote was an “achievement for the Libyan Political Agreement” and a chance for the GNA Presidency Council to form a new government, as well as a chance for other LPA-related bodies to be reviewed.
“Today the HoR said its word on the [unity] government and it is now up to the Presidency Council to take real steps towards consensus”, said MP Ali Saidi.
Lawyer Sami al-Atrash argued that the government did not fulfil the legal standards to be submitted to a vote. “We don’t have a government but only ministers commissioned to manage ministerial affairs until a full unity government is formed” he said, calling Monday’s vote “legally invalid”. “Today was another sad day in the lives of Libyans. I was not expecting such reckless disregard on the part of HoR members”, al-Atrash said.
Monday’s vote will certainly be high on the agenda of the next meeting of the Libyan Political Dialogue scheduled to take place on September 5 and 6 in Tunis.