By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 9 January 2014:
With on-going, but small, demonstrations calling for the Prime Minister and his . . .[restrict]government to resign, and pressure on the GNC to vote it out, Ali Zeidan made a strong attempt yesterday to justify his government remaining in power.
Speaking, together with his Ministers, at his first televised press conference in 2014 that lasted for about two hours held at the Ministry of Communications, Zeidan came out fighting in defence of his record.
With the GNC continuing to sidestep a vote of no confidence in the government, first postponing it from last Sunday to today, Thursday, and now moving “a possible vote” to next Sunday, “if the committee” looking into it deems that it should be voted on, Zeidan had to put in a strong performance to justify his government’s continuation.
Vote of no confidence
“I would be happy for a vote of no confidence, but we would not be happy for the government to be left to a caretaker government. I have asked the GNC to choose a Prime Minister. I will not leave the country in an executive vacuum”, said Zeidan explaining his philosophy on the matter.
With regards to his Ministers, the Prime Minister claimed that he was “holding on to Ministers by force. Every minister wants to leave due to pressures and insults. We work under the duress of guns and bombs”, he explained.
Moreover he went on to say that his “government will not be changed by 300 or 200 people even if they have guns”, sending a message to the numerous attempts by small groups to force the government by demonstrations and blockades of Ministries, the GNC, Tripoli Port, CBL, the internet and mobile companies.
“The government was chosen from different regions. It will not be subjected to a specific (political/regional) category. This government has been given the confidence and once that is withdrawn by the GNC, then the GNC must accept its responsibility by creating a government immediately”.
“We are not concerned with remaining in power”, Zeidan stressed. “We are concerned about giving to the nation and not allowing the nation to be in a vacuum. There are those who want to end the life of the government and the GNC and open up the country to all-comers with arms everywhere. If Libyans are accepting of this, then this is what is being offered”, he warned.
“If the government is removed what is next?”, Zeidan asked rhetorically, echoing a much asked question during this period of much political debate in Libya as to whether to remove or keep his government.
Again, reflecting the inability of the nation and the GNC to come up with a plan b for the current political impasse, Zeidan challenged the political class: “Bring an alternative and bring a vision, I promise we have no desire in this (to remain in power) but history will not record on us that we abandoned this position and the country goes (fails)”.
Zeidan attacked those who had hoped to manipulate him politically in their favour. “Some thought I will be a ring to be worn on their finger. They cannot prevent me from doing my work”, he assured.
“If the government continues..there will be an important Ministerial reshuffle, because a number of Ministers do not wish to continue”. Zeidan did not name all the Ministers nor their Ministries. However, he said that the vacant and sensitive Ministry of Interior, currently run by the Deputy Prime Minister Abdelkarim, and the Ministry of Local Governance will have new Ministers announced. He stressed these will not be political appointments.
Oil blockade and use of force
With regards to the oil blockade in the east by the federalist Ibrahim Judran, Zeidan defended his government’s non-use of force saying that “we were asked by the region and by Mustafa Abdul Jalil (former NTC head) and other leading figures not to use force, so as not to spill blood. Zeidan claimed that he had agreed to this “not out of weakness, fear or cowardice “, as some critics might have suggested.
He stressed that it was “very easy to use force”, but that he did not “want to enter into uncalculated adventures”.
Nevertheless, he squarely put the blame on the delayed action on the GNC saying that they had delayed his government’s response by forming a “crises committee” which had deliberated for three months and had only just ended its deliberations.
over “Ninety per cent”
Controversially, Prime Minister Ali Zeidan gave his government top marks for its performance, a comment that political commentators in Benghazi found insulting in view of the daily assassinations and bombings.
“Over ninety per cent of our plan after a year has been implemented. One year is not enough to rebuild what was destroyed in 42 years”, he said in defence of his government’s performance.
Zeidan’s success stories
Listing his government’s success stories, Zeidan pointed out the National ID Number, which is now being used for the Constitutional “Committee of 60” elections and for the new biometric passports. Zeidan also pointed out that his government had “started in establishing an army”.
The formation of a post-Qaddafi-era army included the enrollment of the former thuwar/militias into the new bodies, as per Laws 27 and 53 ordering the breakup of militia brigades and their vacating of their bases in Tripoli.
Regarding the formation of an army, Zeidan said that he did not possess an “oven” with which he could establish an army in five minutes.
Zeidan also highlighted the family allowance, the large number of students sent on scholarships abroad and the successful 20 Municipality elections, with 35 to come. The government also started to establish council rubbish dumps.
Prime Minister Ali Zeidan then gave up the podium for his Ministers to take turns in giving a roundup of their Ministry’s achievements over the last year.