By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 1 August 2014:
It is now almost certain that the House of Representatives will meet for the first time . . .[restrict]tomorrow Saturday 2 August in Tobruk, rather than on 4 August in Tripoli.
Both Caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Thinni and Interior Minister and the Chief of Staff are in nearby Beida “following up preparations for the House of Representatives meeting in Tobruk on Saturday”, the Ministry of Interior Facebook page reports.
It also reports that Tobruk Security Directorate “continues to make security preparations for Saturday’s House of Representatives’ meeting” and that “Representatives have continued to arrive at the city reaching 120 members”. It is believed that the two thirds majority needed is 127 members.
Yesterday, the House of Representatives announced on its Facebook page that it had “reached the needed quorum”, but without stating what exactly that quorum is.
Meanwhile, debate is still ranging on regular and social media over the legality of the House of Representatives’ meeting in Tobruk two days ahead of the date prescribed by General National Council (GNC) head Nuri Abu Sahmain.
Lawyers, politicians, analysts and social media have been contending whether a sitting of the House of Representatives without an official handing over ceremony is legal, or whether the handing over ceremony is purely a ceremonial nicety.
There are reports that GNC First Deputy will be present in Tobruk to deputize for GNC head Nuri Abu Sahmain if Abu Sahmain boycotts the Tobruk meeting. This is not surprising as the two represent opposing political views as was witnessed during the debacle of the election of Ahmed Maetig as Prime Minister. Abu Sahmain is considered firmly in the Islamist camp, or as former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan put it, “in the pocket” of the Islamists.
Those in support of the Tobruk meeting, tomorrow 2 August, say that in effect the political show must go in and that in an emergency situation such as Libya is going through currently, ceremonial detail can be overlooked. More importantly, they believe that once the High National Election Commission (HNEC) had officially announced the June 25 results, power and legitimacy automatically passed from the GNC to the House of Representatives.
Nevertheless, there are a number of Representatives who are travelling to Tobruk who still believe that the meeting is “unconstitutional”. Asked why were they making the trip to Tobruk in time for tomorrow’s meeting, one Representative said “we are travelling to show support for the new House of Representatives and to show our support for the Libyan people and public opinion against the current fighting in Tripoli and Benghazi”, he told Libya Herald anonymously today.
Another Tobruk-bound Representative told Libya Herald today that he urged fellow representatives in a meeting last night in Tripoli to make Saturday’s House of Representatives meeting a “consultative” one and not a constitutional one.
It has been noticeable that most of the Representatives Libya Herald has spoken to at this early stage are still unclear and unsure about their political stances on various issues. They have shown reluctance to committing on record on various issues preferring to wait and see what the consensus of their colleagues will be once they meet. They have also taken note of the fact that already former Deputy Minister and Prime Minister designate Mustafa Abushagur had been briefly kidnapped. With the weak state and lack of central security, most members Libya Herald has spoken too are keen to keep a low media profile – at this stage anyway.
It will be interesting to see how many Representatives succeed in making the difficult trip to Tobruk in view of the lack of fuel, security and transport available for Representatives spread widely across Libya. Libya Herald has established, for example, that a group from the west have made their way from Tripoli by car to Zintan and thereon by plane to Tobruk. Another group will be flying via Tunis.
Needless to say, the higher the turnout, the more authority and legitimacy the newly elected House would enjoy. Conversely, a low turnout would raise question marks about the whole legitimacy of the Tobruk 2 August meeting. Of course, ultimately, the whole process could be challenged in court later on.
The turnout could be very politically indicative and could finally start to answer some questions about the makeup of the House of Representatives. There has been much speculation about the number of independents, National Forces Alliance (NFA), federalists and Islamist supporters. Various numbers have been circulating.
Libya Herald has been taking a straw poll of some House of Representatives members. Frankl,y most members, quite new to the political arena were unable to make an educated guess of the political make up of the House. Those who were prepared to make an estimate would do so only off record.
Combining the estimates by some House Representatives and those circulating in the media, Libya Herald has come up with an educated estimate.
|Broad political categorization of the House of Representatives members||Seats|
Educated guestimation of the political leanings of the House of Representatives
Most commentators had put the number of independents at over 100 and the National Forces Alliance at 20-30 members. Estimates of Federalists have ranged from 15-25.
The most vexing estimate has been arriving at a realistic number for the Islamist bloc. In the 2012 elections the number of Islamist GNC members was hugely under estimated at the expense of real independents.
For the 2014 House of Representatives elections, the more cautious Representatives have warned against over estimating the actual independent members of the new legislature. Critics say that both political streams will be attempting to lure independents to their camps – by all legal and illegal means. Some independents are expected to jump ship.
The most optimistic estimates by Islamist supporters of Islamist House of Representatives members has been put at 70, whilst the lowest and most quoted has been 30. Libya Herald has decided to list the estimate at the average of 50 members.
Tomorrow, as the gathered members meet in Tobruk and a roll call and a headcount is conducted, we will know the exact number of Representatives in Tobruk. Those who voted with their feet by ignoring Nuri Abusahmain’s call to meet on Monday in Tripoli, and made the special effort to go to Tobruk would be making a political statement.
It will be recalled that the Islamist bloc in the GNC tried their best to elongate the GNC’s tenure. Therefore, it would be expected that with the exception of a few Representatives who could not make the trip to Tobruk for valid reasons, the majority of those not present would also be making a political statement. [/restrict]