HoR Does Housekeeping by Shelving Political Isolation Law
On Monday 2 February, after a few months of relative marginalization, the House of Representatives in Tobruk made the headlines again by ‘shelving’ the lustration law approved by the General National Congress back in May 2013. Conflicting reports have so far emerged as to whether the HoR effectively cancelled the law or merely ‘suspended’ it until a new constitution is approved. To be sure, the HoR fell short of trying to take the more constructive route and amend the text of the law, so as to devise a new balanced version that could be seen as an acceptable compromise by moderates on both sides of the current divide.
As the idea of moving UN-backed talks back to Libya appears to be gaining momentum among stakeholders every passing day, the decision by the HoR to cancel the Political Isolation Law should be seen as a move designed to strengthen the fundamental alliance between the Tobruk-based establishment and federalist forces. In the current climate, speculations as to the stability of this alliance are rampant due to the rapprochement, occurring through the UNSMIL talks, between the Tobruk cabinet and other western Libyan constituencies, some of whom hold agendas which are antithetical to federalist demands. The same unifying goal likely underpinned the decision taken a few days ago by Ali Hibri. The Governor of the Central Bank of Libya aligned with the Tobruk establishment announced in fact the imminent creation of two new main branches in Benghazi and Sebha. This move comes again as an attempt to strengthen the fundamental alliance between Thinni’s cabinet and federalists as well as other local stakeholders active in eastern and southern Libya. This alliance is seen as crucial among politicians in Tobruk, especially at a time when rifts between Thinni’s cabinet and the higher echelons of Operation Dignity are starting to surface more and more clearly.
The Libya Dawn and Misratan-led camp, however, is largely suffering from the same type of internal distress. On Tuesday 3 February, Salah Makhzoum, the deputy president of the rump GNC and one of the four men appointed by the body to attend UN-backed talks resigned from his post, most likely due to pressures received from hardliners among his faction and kin communities in western Libya. Furthermore, Frederic Wehrey writing from Misrata on Foreign Affairs reports largely similar signs of discontent and division within Misratan themselves:
Over the two weeks I spent in Misrata, I witnessed intense debates among local residents, businesspeople, members of the political elites, and militia commanders on whether to participate in the talks. Although some questioned the location, scope, and purpose of the Geneva negotiations—as well as the ability of those attending to make a deal stick—many supported the idea of dialogue in principle.
[…] “Four years of fighting since the fall of Qaddafi; I want to go home,” one young fighter told me. It was a sentiment shared by many Misratans—lawyers, businessmen, and youth activists alike. Misrata’s elected municipal council endorsed a delegation from the city to the UN peace talks, even though the Dawn coalition’s parliament, the General National Congress, had boycotted the first round of negotiations. And Misratan militia commanders told me that the just-ended ceasefire was their unilateral decision, announced in support of the talks. The question now is whether pragmatists will win out over Misrata’s rejectionists and the more radical Islamists within the Dawn government.