The Libyan parliament passes a motion of censure against the government and aggravates the institutional division

The decision, rejected by the High Council of State, hinders the holding of elections on 24 December
El presidente del Parlamento de Libia con sede en la ciudad oriental de Tobruk, Aguilah Saleh

PHOTO/AFP  -   The Speaker of Libya's Parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk, Aguilah Saleh

The Libyan House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a motion of censure against the National Unity Government headed by Abdul Hamid Dbeibé, with the backing of 89 of the 113 deputies present at the session and with three months to go before the country's presidential elections. The motion was immediately rejected by the High Council of State, which will not recognise the Assembly's decision.

The spokesman of this body, Mohamed Abdel Nasser, described the parliamentary decision as "null and void" for violating the constitutional declaration and the stipulated political agreement. Nasser slammed the House of Representatives and asserted that all decisions emanating from the Assembly will have no legal validity. The vote came a day after Monday's postponement due to a lack of procedural legitimacy.

On 24 December, Libya will hold crucial elections to decide its immediate future and move forward on the path of political transition. A transition that is becoming more complicated as the deadline expires. In fact, according to Parliament, the next step would be the formation of an interim government to replace the current one until Election Day.

Cámara de Representantes libia
PHOTO/AFP  -  Libyan House of Representatives (HOR) in session in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on January 4, 2020

In this climate of mutual distrust between institutions, the head of the High Council of State, Khalid al-Mishri, proposed on Monday to postpone the presidential elections. At least until a referendum is held to approve or reject the constitutional changes being prepared by the executive branch, according to al-Mishri, a figure who had previously endorsed holding elections on the scheduled date.

Coexistence between the House of Representatives and the government has been complex. Parliament has been a headache for the interim government, which has been unable to move forward with the measures the country needs. The vote came a week after the Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh, ratified a series of prerogatives in favour of General Jalifa Haftar, the de facto leader of the eastern part of the country.

This was despite the fact that the High Council of State had previously sent parliament a document containing electoral legislation for the forthcoming elections. This document contained a series of measures that disqualified Haftar from running for the presidency, which meant that in principle he would not be able to stand as a candidate. The clash was aggravated by the creation by the House of Representatives of a committee to investigate the activities of the interim prime minister, Abdul Hamid Dbeibé.

Abdul Hamid Dbeibé
PHOTO/AP  -   Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibé

To understand the rift, it should be borne in mind that the parliament moved to the eastern city of Tobruk, under Haftar's control, after the previous assembly failed to recognise the election results issued in 2014. In fact, the body itself is trying to act as a counterweight to the Tripoli government, backed by the international community. All this despite having approved the incumbent executive.

The House of Representatives operates outside the Libyan government. For this reason, Haftar himself announced a fortnight ago that he had completed the new electoral law and sent it to the head of the UN mission for Libya (UNSMIL), Jan Kubis. In the letter, the parliament claimed to be the country's "sole legislative body", insisting that the new law was "in an effort to fulfil its mandated obligations in terms of enacting legislation and issuing laws related to the electoral process".

Libya's fractured state after 10 years of fratricidal wars continues. Conflicts on the ground have given way to political frictions and power struggles, yet the UN-sponsored preparations cannot be fulfilled. With three months to go, the institutions remain divided and logistical difficulties make it impossible to hold a guaranteed election on 24 December.