HOR Saleh’s Strategy for the Libyan Constitution
On 27 August, House of Representatives (HoR) President Agilah Saleh announced that the HoR will forgo the constitutional referendum if the parliament does not achieve the required quorum to hold the vote on the constitutional amendment at its next session on 3 September. The number of HoR members attending the session on 27 August fell far below the requisite 120 quorum and as a result it became a consultative session. Saleh stated that quorum wasn’t reached in the next session then he would be forced to activate Law No.5 of 2014 which he claims permits him to hold direct elections for a temporary president without going through the HoR.
At its last session in mid-August, the HoR agreed in principle to approve the electoral legislation needed to hold a national referendum on the draft constitution provided the Temporary Constitutional Declaration of 2011 was first amended to ensure the referendum legislation is constitutional. However, 120 votes are required to pass a constitutional amendment.
There has long been a fierce debate in Libya over whether fresh elections should be held before the referendum to ensure that those in power have the legitimacy to oversee the process, or whether to hold the referendum before elections to ensure that the legitimacy of those elected is solid and widely accepted. It appears that the HoR-led constitutional referendum process has become gridlocked and it is very unlikely that there will be any sort of ‘constitutional basis’ for December elections in place by the September deadline outlined by the 29 May Paris agreement. However, any attempt by Saleh to bypass the HoR through Law No.5 is likely to be met with stiff resistance from many political and social blocs, both in Libya and internationally.
Saleh’s declaration – whether realised or not – is likely to reignite political tensions within Libya, particularly along already deepening East-West divides. The assumption is that presidential elections would favour power brokers in the East and would allow Haftar or his allies to snatch the Libyan presidency.