By Libya Herald staff.
Tripoli, 4 August 2014:
The first session of the newly elected House of Representatives was held this morning in Tobruk.
Though battles continue to . . .[restrict]rage in Tripoli and Benghazi, 158 of the 188 elected lawmakers made it to Tobruk and were officially sworn in. Thirty were absent – ten from Misrata, seven from Tripoli, five from Ghariyan, three from Khoms, three from Benghazi and two from Sebha. Not all are Islamists, but many are connected to the Islamist block that controlled Congress but which was trounced in the general election in June.
There have been unconfirmed reports that some of the 30 were prevented from flying out of Mitiga airbase.
The First Deputy President of what is now the former General National Congress (GNC), Ezzeddine Al-Awami, opened the new parliament with congratulations to the lawmakers for the “confidence accorded them by the Libyan people”.
Awami later warned that a swift transition from Congress to the new parliament was vital because of the present state of turmoil that the country finds itself in.
Justice Minister Salah Al-Marghani, standing in for Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni who is attending meetings in the US, called on the new parliament to form a national unity government.
In Tripoli, however, Islamists and the former president of the GNC Nuri Abu Sahmain insisted that the official handover of power had to take place in the capital. In the event there was no handover. The House of Representatives got down to business unilaterally and Congress ceased to exist.
Responding to accusations that the Tobruk inauguration was illegitimate because there had been no formal handover from Congress and the meeting was not in Tripoli, Member of Parliament Hana Abudeeb, elected in Hay Al-Andalus, told the Libya Herald that the handover had been performed by Congress Vice-President Awami. It had included representatives of the government as well as the European Union, the African Union, the Arab league and other organisations. As to the location, “the February Committee said previously that the General National Congress sets the date but the location is determined by the House of Representatives itself,” she said .
A second session was due to start at 7 pm this evening to elect a president for the House, as well as two deputies. While the results are not yet in, the candidates include Benghazi’s Abubakr Bahira who, as the oldest member, chaired the inaugural meeting and Younis Fanoush and Imhemed Shaib from Zawia.
Despite the efforts by Islamists and their allies, the legitimacy of new parliament is now seen as unassailable, especially given that today’s session was endorsed by the attendance of the United Nations Security Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) as well as representatives from the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
In a statement released today, UNSMIL said that it welcomed the convening of the House of Representatives amid the difficult circumstances in Libya. It also applauded the Libyan people for exercising their “genuine will” to ensure that the democratic process was respected and for their “insistence” on building a state based on the rule of law and respect for human rights. [/restrict]