Libya Political Dialogue meets in Tunisia without eastern members

The UN-brokered Libya Dialogue met in the town of Mammamet in Tunisia to assess the progress of the Presidency Council of the Government of National Accord (GNA) and discuss changing parts of the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA).

However, the delegation from the eastern-based rival government the House of Representatives (HoR) was absent from the meeting. According to HoR spokesperson Abdullah Bulaihak, the parliamentary deputy president Emhemed Shouaib and others were ordered not to attend by Ageela Saleh head of the HoR. Apparently Shouaib and the other members of the HoR delegation are no longer representatives of the HoR. There are unconfirmed reports that Shouaib was to fly back to Tobruk, the site of the HoR government, for consultations. Bulahaik said a new team had to be chosen and this would not happen until tomorrow at the earliest.

The members who met anyway to start deliberations decided only to ask the HoR who will be their new representatives. The discussions are about proposals that reduce the size of the Presidency Council from nine members to three as in an earlier draft of the LPA. The Presidency Council head would not also be Prime Minister but there would be a separate Prime Minister in charge of the cabinet. Apparently this structure is supported by Ageela Saleh and many members of the the HoR. It is unlikely any decision taken without HoR delegates present would be accepted by the HoR.

The members of the Libyan Dialogue must be acceptable to the UN special envoy Martin Kobler. He is unlikely to accept members whom he thinks are likely to vote for changes that he thinks may cause further divisions or other changes not acceptable to him. The HoR does not have the power to force its own choice of delegates on Kobler as membership of the Dialogue is a decision of Kobler. Names may not be the most pressing problem. Saleh wants a five-person HoR team rather than the present four. This would give the HoR more power. Another problem is that the HoR itself is not united about who should be on their team. Although Kobler did not attend today’s meeting, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) organized the meeting site, bought Dialogue members plane tickets and arranged their accommodation.

The meeting has already been postponed twice. Originally the meeting was supposed to take place in Ghadames last week. It was then set to meet in Tunis on Wednesday but was then postponed until Sunday. The proposal from the HoR for a three person Presidency Council would see a representative from each of the three regions of Libya. However, the HoR is apparently finding it difficult to decide who they should name as their representative.

According to the Libya Herald, Saleh is willing to have the present head of the PC Faiez Serraj as head of the PC which is reduced in power as well as numbers, but only so long as Khalifa Haftar remains as military chief of the Libyan National Army, elections take place for the State Council and he remains as HoR president. Some of these demands sound impossible to satisfy. According to the present LPA, the PC has the function of commander in chief. Section 8 of the present LPA demands this. There is no way many members of the GNA and the High State Council would stand for any change to the LPA that would allow Haftar to remain as commander in chief of the armed forces. In fact, some will not countenance him having any role in the GNA. In the past, Kobler has refused to allow amendments to the LPA and has claimed it could not be amended but now he claims that the LPA is not written in stone.

It is not clear why the existing members of the HoR delegation are being replaced. What is clear is that if Saleh is demanding that Haftar remain as commander of the armed forces there will likely be no agreement with other members of the Dialogue. If there is then the GNA will simply implode. The Tunisia Dialogue meetings if they ever even start are unlikely to reach any solution to the present impasse between the GNA, the HoR and Haftar.

The HoR rejected the LPA for the second time on August 22 last year. There is no sign that there has been any progress towards holding another meeting at which the HoR would amend the constitutional declaration of 2011 as required and approve a new GNA government that is presented to them.

Digital Journal

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