This Monday, in Libya, the vote of confidence for the government of Fathi Bachagha could not be held in the absence of a quorum. The list of ministers is divided, even within the Tobruk parliament, which had appointed Bachagha as prime minister.
By the time a new government was emerging from the ranks of the Libyan House of Representatives (HoR), the leader of the eastern parliament, Aguila Salah, had encountered much resistance. And when the Tobruk parliamentarian sought to impose the former interior minister, Fathi Bachagha, on the prime minister, the vote had to be held behind closed doors, as this choice was so divisive.
The broadcasting of the HoR session of last February 10 was then interrupted and the verdict was only discovered three hours later: Bachagha's competitors had miraculously "withdrawn" and we then knew the name of the new Libyan Prime Minister. But the conditions of the designation of Bachagha remain, even today, shrouded in a certain mystery.
According to parliamentary sources from the Journal de l'Afrique, tensions are far from easing. On the sidelines of the vote of confidence for the government of Fathi Bachagha, presented last Thursday in the eastern parliament and which took place this Monday, February 28, a majority of deputies decided to boycott the session, accusing Bachagha of wanting to "divide the country ".
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This Tuesday morning, Aguila Salah, the head of this parliament and political ally of Bachagha, proposed holding a new vote… by telephone. A violation of the rules of the chamber.
And if, finally, Aguila Salah did not control the HoR as much as we imagined? As a reminder, even when he had promulgated the electoral law for the presidential election of December 24, finally postponed and then canceled, Aguila Salah had decided unilaterally on the content of the text. The vote on the law had also taken place on the sly and several parliamentarians had assured that no vote had actually been organized.
Salah struggles to garner support for Bachagha
Regarding the government list proposed by Bachagha, a deputy told the Journal de l'Afrique that “Bachagha did not keep his promises to include all the Libyan components in the new government. He just chose his allies, those of Khalifa Haftar and those of Aguila Salah, so as to have geographical representation of the three Libyan regions”.
BREAKING | Prime Minister-designate Fathi #Bashagha transmits the final government formation to the Presidency of the House of Representatives for a vote of confidence. #Libya pic.twitter.com/tf0ONizoh3
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It would therefore seem that the new Libyan Prime Minister, supported by Egypt, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and some Western countries, is trying to please his political allies. With two main allies: the first, Khalifa Haftar, who supports him militarily; and the second, Aguila Salah, who helped him become prime minister.
What does the lack of quorum for this HoR session mean? It seems established that the outgoing Prime Minister, Abdel Hamid Dbeibah, is still supported by some of the elected members of the eastern parliament. It should be remembered that 130 deputies of this same parliament, known to be opposed to the Tripolitanian elite, had approved the current government on March 10, 2021. Bachagha seems to be less unanimous than his predecessor: he is missing at least 88 deputies to achieve quorum and obtain the vote of confidence.
HoR spokesman Abdallah Belhiq said on Monday evening that 100 deputies were in Tobruk for the vote. A parliamentarian, Ibrahim Al-Dressi, revealed that he had spoken with Aguila Salah that same evening. The latter would have explained to the recently appointed head of government that his government was not representative enough and that he therefore had to revise his copy if he wanted the HoR deputies to agree to give Bachagha their confidence.
Diplomacy and lobbying, Dbeibah's jokers
For his part, in Tripoli, Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibah is not losing his temper. He spoke on Monday at a popular rally against the extension of the transition period. A direct response to Bachagha's project, which intends to relaunch a fourteen-month transition. "The Libyan parliament is now held hostage," said Dbeibah.
Dbeibah has, in recent days, indicated that he has worked on the administrative framework for the holding of legislative elections, scheduled for next June. He also advocates the importance of holding a constitutional referendum, a project that has been skating since 2017.
Moreover, faced with his abandonment by Manul and by its leader, the UN special representative, Stephanie Williams, Dbeibah embarked on a diplomatic mission, the outcome of which is still uncertain.
The objective is, first of all, to bring Tripoli and Algiers closer. In the midst of the gas crisis, Dbeibah activated the gas agreements between Sonatrach and the Libyan NOC. It remains to be seen whether Hydrocarbons Minister Mohammed Oun will manage to obtain the cooperation of Mustapha Sanallah, the head of the NOC, with whom he disagrees.
Dbeibah also deplored the Egyptian position. Egypt is the only country that openly and aggressively supports Bachagha and wants him to replace Dbeibah. Libyan Foreign Minister Najla Mangoush summoned Egyptian Chargé d'Affaires Tamer Mustafa. The Libyan government is said to have taken a dim view of calls by the Egyptian media to go to war in Libya. Egyptian diplomacy, she wanted to defend the "independence of the press" in Egypt.
After the last episodes in Libya, observers are beginning to realize that Dbeibah still has influence within Aguila Salah's HoR. The outgoing Prime Minister will certainly try to use this to discredit the vote of confidence in favor of Bachagha's government.
Dbeibah knows well that if this vote takes place under questionable conditions, Bachagha's Western allies will no longer be able to support him so openly. Especially if the new Libyan Prime Minister-designate decides to fight with arms to impose his authority in Tripoli.