UNSMIL announced yesterday that it is starting consultations in Tunis today with the House of Representatives (HoR) and High State Council (HSC) Joint Committee – but without the HoR.
While the HSC had announced previously its 12 Joint Committee members (double what UNSMIL has asked for), the HoR has failed to announce its representatives.
Here is the full UNSMIL statement on today’s talks in Tunis:
‘‘On 3 March 2022, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General (SASG) on Libya Ms. Stephanie Williams announced an initiative to form a joint committee from the House of Representatives (HoR) and High Council of State (HCS) to agree on a firm constitutional basis for national elections. On the same day, the SASG sent official invitations to the heads of the HoR and the HCS to select representatives to participate in the joint committee. On 10 March, HoR Speaker Mr. Agila Saleh officially welcomed the United Nations initiative as a step to enhance the ties between the two councils and pledged the HoR’s cooperation. To date, the UN has yet to receive the list of the HoR’s representatives for the joint committee although we remain in active communication with the Speaker’s office. On 15 March, the head of the HCS, Mr. Khaled Al-Mishri sent a letter announcing the list of HCS participants.
Cognizant of the overwhelming desire of millions of Libyans to go to the ballot boxes and democratically elect those who represent them, the SASG will proceed with a consultative session with the designated HCS representatives. This session will commence tomorrow, on 22 March, in Tunisia. The UN expects that the HoR will submit the list of its representatives and join the meeting within the coming days.’’
There are various theories as to why the HoR has failed to come up with its committee representatives.
Firstly, that the delay can be put the usual tardiness of the HoR and its ineffective internal dynamics.
Disagreements on how to proceed
Secondly, internal political differences between Khalifa Hafter and HoR Speaker Ageela Saleh and the hawks within the HoR as to the way forward. Some analysts say they were taken aback by the resoluteness of Aldabaiba and his refusal to give up power. They did not count on Bashagha’s inability to enter Tripoli and squeeze Aldabaiba out of the Sikka Road Cabinet Office.
This fact has brought home to them their limited power and inability to affect politics on the ground in Tripoli. It’s a reconfirmation that the centre of power in Libya is still Tripoli.
This is due to the historic oil contracts that pay money into the Libyan Foreign Bank and the location of the National Oil Corporation, the Central Bank of Libya and Audit Bureau – all in Tripoli.
The HoR played on the fact that it is the only elected body between the HSC and Prime Minister Aldabaiba and his government. It overlooked or underestimated the role and effect of the western-based militias.
The third reason for the delay has been put to simple squabbling between HoR members as to who is to be on this committee. The idea of travel allowances and committee stipends still attracts members who love being wined (metaphorically) and dined at five-star hotels abroad.
The HoR never wants elections
Fourthly, the HoR did not, does not and never will agree quietly to elections that would vote itself out of office, influence and money. It does not want a constitutionally based election – or any election for that matter. It – like the HSC – will do anything to postpone elections indefinitely.
The HoR wants to be seen as the leader on elections
There is also the view that the HoR wants to be seen to be calling the shots in the Libyan political process and on elections.
It does not want to be singing to anybody else’s tune – and most certainly not that of the international community and UNSMIL.
Against more failed foreign roadmaps
The more hawkish HoR members are keen to portray the previous international community/UNSMIL roadmaps as failures – because they were imposed from abroad. They are therefore against June elections simply because the date was suggested by Stephanie Williams
What may happen?
Nevertheless, the HoR is aware that it will not be able to refuse indefinitely to participate in UNSMIL-facilitated talks. This would drop its fig leaf of wanting elections and expose its true intentions. This would make it even more unpopular.
Therefore, it is expected, as the UNSMIL statement predicted, that the HoR representatives will join the process late. This way they would have succeeded in losing more time and delaying the possibility of elections even more -while politically saving face.
With Ramadan round the corner, nothing major politically is going to be negotiated for over a month – which takes us to May. There will be no elections n May and probably not in 2022.