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Death threats to MPs, Aguila Saleh holds parallel parliamentary session in Benghazi

Aguila Saleh Issa (L), speaker of the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, chairs a session with other representatives in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on 7 December 2020. [ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP via Getty Images]
Aguila Saleh Issa (L), speaker of the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, chairs a session with other representatives in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on 7 December 2020. [ABDULLAH DOMA/AFP via Getty Images]

Following the challenging success achieved by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) to elect a unified executive authority approved both internally and internationally, many questions are being raised regarding its ability to ensure the success of the transitional stage.

The House of Representatives is assigned to a major and crucial task of electing a president and a new parliament, and granting confidence to the national unity government that Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh was set to form, following his appointment on 5 February.

According to a source in the House of Representatives in Sabratha, on 15 February, around 74 deputies arrived in Sabratha to attend a consultative session, in preparation for amending parliament's internal law, electing a new parliament speaker to replace Aguila Saleh and discussing the possibility to grant confidence in the new government.

During the session, the MPs agreed to rule out the required quorum of 90 deputies to formally hold the session.

Parallel to the Sabratha meeting, another session of the House of Representatives of Tobruk was initiated in the presence of Saleh, the second deputy Hamid Houmeh and less than 20 MPs.

The members of the House of Representatives of Tobruk discussed holding an official session in the city of Benghazi or Sirte, with a full quorum, to vote on forming the government of national unity.

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However, the deputies assisting the Sabratha session did not approve the government, due to the failure to reach the required quorum and the withdrawal of some MPs after Saleh called from Tobruk to hold a parliamentary session in Benghazi. In addition to this, was the disagreement on amending the internal regulations of the House of Representatives and the threats that some of the eastern region deputies received, as anonymous parties threatened to murder them if they voted on any decisions that would lead to changing the parliament speaker or the internal law.

Some MPs expressed their rejection of the parliamentary session held in the city of Sabratha with the aim of re-electing the presidency of parliament and amending the internal law.

The law endorsed by the Libyan parties present at the National Political Forum held in the city of Ghadames and Tunisia provides for electing a president from the Fezzan region in southern Libya. Prime Minister Dbeibeh has not yet announced the names of the candidates to form the government.

Aguila Saleh Issa, President of the Libyan House of Representatives attends the Conference for Libya at Villa Igiea on November 13, 2018 in Palermo, Italy. Heads of State, ministers and special envoys are holding a two day meeting where they will discuss about security and stability in Libya [Tullio Puglia/Getty Images]

Aguila Saleh Issa, President of the Libyan House of Representatives attends the Conference for Libya at Villa Igiea on November 13, 2018 in Palermo, Italy. Heads of State, ministers and special envoys are holding a two day meeting where they will discuss about security and stability in Libya [Tullio Puglia/Getty Images]

Parliament member Salem Quneidi told the Arabic Post that a parliamentary session is to be held next Monday and Tuesday, either in Sirte, if the area is safe, or in Sabratha, to change the presidency of parliament.

Issa Abdulmajid, advisor for African affairs in the House of Representatives, asserted that there would be a meeting during the next 72 hours to elect a parliament speaker, which will take place either in Sabratha, Sirte or Ghadames.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the 97 deputies called on the two presidencies of the House of Representatives in Tobruk and Tripoli to attend the scheduled session. In the event of their absence, the session will be run by the oldest deputy, who will pledge to commit to the meeting agenda.

The statement indicated that the agenda for the next parliamentary session includes the re-election of the presidency of the Council of Representatives, so as to be transferred to an elected deputy from the Libyan south, according to what was agreed upon and in accordance with the Cairo Declaration.

The upcoming session will also focus on approving the outcomes of the Geneva LPDF, discussing the mechanisms for granting confidence to the national unity government and adopting amendments of the internal regulations, including the addition of the parliamentary session.

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Political analyst Abd Al-Jawad Al-Badin explained that the failure of the House of Representatives to approve the government of national unity was expected, adding that if there were a consensus in parliament, the delegation would not have resorted to form the National Dialogue Committee, or the so-called 75th Committee.

Al-Badin indicated that this failure is not the end of the efforts to reach a consensus, and this is why the National Dialogue Committee was created to resolve similar obstacles.

He explained: "At this stage, we are not dealing with integrated legal standards in the political process. There must be violations in order to end the rift in the House of Representatives." Al-Badin noted that it is unacceptable that parliament fails to properly practice politics, despite being elected by the people who bet on its success, and yet it has been present in the Libyan political scene for nearly seven years, without carrying out the responsibilities and the political work entrusted to it.

The analyst added that the fragility of the House of Representatives is the reason why the Libyan political blocs and entities endorse forming the National Dialogue Committee, to save the country from the political blockage it is enduring. He indicated that the matter would be entrusted to the LPDF, which will have a better sense of responsibility in granting confidence to the new government.

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