Al-Thinni’s New Cabinet Approved amid Preparations for Negotiation Talks
This is proving to be a busy and eventful week for Libya. On Monday, the House of Representatives finally approved the new cabinet led by Abdullah al-Thinni. After seeing his proposed cabinets rejected twice, al-Thinni managed to overcome HoR internal fractures between federalists and members of the highly heterogeneous National Forces Alliance and to obtain a vote of confidence. In a sense, the approval of al-Thinni’s cabinet after such a long hiatus from his resignation last month was an obligatory move for the HoR at this stage. The institution is reportedly losing members on a daily basis and its inability to install a functioning executive was not simply taking a toll on its internal standing, but risked more broadly to evolve in an insurmountable issue leading to its complete collapse and demise.
As a response to al-Thinni’s cabinet, on Wednesday the GNC sworn in new members to its own government, labeled as a national salvation one, which is headed by Omar al-Hassi. Several members of the al-Hassi government have already taken control of Ministerial buildings in Tripoli and reiterated calls for Libya’s Arab and international partners to return to Tripoli for resuming their business and diplomatic activities. Nonetheless, what the al-Hassi government cannot rely on, is the international recognition as Libya’s sole legitimate representative institution that all of the country’s partners, including Turkey and Qatar, still give to the HoR. This position was implicitly reiterated in the closing statement of last week’s Madrid’s Ministerial Conference on stability and developments in Libya. Clearly, the legitimacy of the HoR and of the transition process for which it stands represent non-negotiable items for Libya’s international partners. This is further demonstrated by the fact that upcoming negotiations between Libya’s rival factions, which are set to start on Monday 29 September under the guidance of the UNSMIL, will adopt the following agenda, which in itself represents a defeat for the Misrata-affiliated institutional paraphernalia:
(I) Conclusion of a framework agreement on the rules of procedure of the House of Representatives (HoR) as well as an agreement on the critical issues relating to the governance of the country. Such key issues would require a qualified majority of 2/3 of the HoR membership to allow for decisions. All decisions of the HoR will be subject to the agreed upon rules of procedure.
(II) Agreement on the date, venue and ceremonial for a handover ceremony from the previous General National Congress to the current HoR.
With regards to oil production, after a temporary shut-down of the el-Sharara field and of the Zawiya refinery over the week-end, both structures are now back to work, helping Libya’s oil production to close in on the 900,000bpd mark. Two potential issues, however, emerged in the past days for the oil sector.
Firstly, tensions and armed confrontations have recently erupted in Obari, near the el-Sharara field and close to the border with Algeria. Reports indicate that Tuareg and Tubu militias have battled in and around the town after Tuareg militias prevented an attempt from Tubu groups to smuggle people from Algeria into Libya. On the other hand, rumors indicate that these confrontations might have also been spurred by recent overtures made by the Misratan establishment to local groups in the area in an attempt to obtain a direct control of oil production facilities. Secondly, after a first round of confrontations for the control of the Central Bank, Libya’s rival governments are likely to battle at an institutional level for the control of the oil sector as well. So far, the two government have adopted different approaches. Al-Thinni, in fact, has decided not to include an oil minister in his cabinet and opted to manage oil production entirely through the NOC, as in Qadhafi-era Libya. Al-Hassi, on the contrary, has appointed for the post of Minister of Oil Mashallah Zwai, who has already taken over the Oil Ministry building in Tripoli and looks ready to set off the battle for the control of Libya’s gold.