An HoR Rejection May Not Stop GNA Momentum, But May Undermine Credibility of Libyan and International Supporters of the LPA
The UN mediated Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) is still not enshrined in Libyan law. For that to happen according to the tenet’s of the LPA, the HoR needs to hold a vote and amend the Temporary Constitutional Declaration of August 2011. This step could have been obviated as the LPA could have declared the HoR illegitimate and superceded as it overstayed its mandate but it chose not to. Since it has set out to work with the HoR it has legitimized the body and now needs the HoR’s approval.
There were hopes this week that the House of Representatives (HoR) could attain a full quorum to conduct a vote on 18 April. Achieving the quorum would allow for an HoR to hold a vote on three crucial matters: ratifying the LPA, recognizing the Government of National Accord (GNA) and amending the constitutional declaration. However, an HoR failure to endorse the State Council for a lack of a quorum or for a lack of support is unlikely to stop the GNA and its supporters. The treatment of an HoR vote on the LPA as a legal formality may set a dangerous precedent that could further damage the credibility of the UN and the international community among opponents of the LPA in the East and West. It exposes the international communities attempts to jam the LPA through, independent of Libya’s convuloted and broken constitutional process.
The Deputy Prime Minister of the GNA’s Presidency Council, Ahmed Maitig’s announcement that the GNA would take control of three ministries regardless of the 18 April vote’s outcome reinforces the perception that HoR input is being treated as a mere formality. The likelihood of the HoR achieving a quorum is unknown, but as of 17 April reports emerged of more than 110 HoR members arriving in Tubruq to participate in a televised HoR session. Last week’s Cairo meeting between HoR President (leader of the anti-LPA bloc) Ageelah Saleh and Deputy President Emhemmed Shouaib (leader of the pro-LPA bloc) to discuss the HoR vote on the GNA, renewed hopes of HoR collaboration. However, informed sources suggest that Shouaib and Saleh agreed that the HoR would vote on the GNA minister by minister. If the HoR should reject 6 ministers, the entire GNA would be rejected. A similar ploy threatens to unwind the process endorsed by the UNSC and may possibly lead to the modification of the LPA and Presidential Council themselves. However, this outcome is unlikely to be accepted by the international community. Rather, a similar plan is more likely to force the UN and the LPA’s supporters to override the expressed will of the HoR and effectively endorse a violation of their own agreement. On the other hand, by voting on the GNA the HoR will have upheld by its duties under the UN process without compromising its position. This whole charade could have been avoided by having the HoR considered as superceded and defunct within the LPA itself.
The GNA’s attempt to backtrack from the LPA, by brushing off of the HoR’s potential rejection of the GNA (as obstructionist as it may be) could heighten distrust of Tripoli among other GNA opponents both in the East and the West. Anti-GNA members of the GNC that were marginalized by the creation of the State Council have established a rival SC in Benghazi to offset the influence of the emergent SC. LPA institutions are perceived as being Misratan-dominated due to the election of controversial Misratan hard-liner Abdulrahman Swehli and his nephew’s appointment as deputy PM of the PC. The manner in which the Presidency Council and the State Council initiated operations in Tripoli, the possible sidestepping of an HoR rejection of the GNA, combined with the international community’s vocal support of this development may inflame divisions in Libya rather than create unity.