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Libyan Parliament rejects UN-backed Unity Government, demands smaller Cabinet

Libya’s internationally recognized parliament has rejected the country’s new unity government, installed by a December United Nations peace deal, scuppering plans for a speedy political resolution to an 18-month civil war.

According to the UN-backed agreement, the Government of National Accord – that includes representatives from Libya’s two rival legislatures – must be endorsed by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives to be considered legitimate.

On Tuesday, 89 out of the 104 lawmakers who attended the session in the eastern city of Tobruk, voted against the 32-minister cabinet that the GNA’s 9-member presidency council nominated a week ago. At least 10 boycotting House of Representatives members were not present at the vote as they were unable to get there in time.

“The proposed government was rejected for several reasons, one of which is its huge size – 32 ministries “HoR MP and former dialogue representative Abubakr Buera told Libya Channel.

The cabinet was expected to have just 10 ministries, but when Prime Minister Faiez Serraj announced the shake up after a two-day delay, it contained 32.

“We need a stronger and smaller cabinet, not a huge one with people who have no experience,” said MP Aissa al-Arebi.

Another no-voting lawmaker suggested Libya could not afford to have so many ministries and ministers. “They did not use the correct criteria in choosing ministers and the size of the government, especially now that the economy is collapsing in Libya,” Omar Tantush said.

The legislature gave the GNA presidency council just 10 days to reformulate a smaller cabinet.

In Monday’s session the HoR also held a second vote on December’s UN-backed Libyan Political Agreement – which was also effectively rejected in its current form.

97 lawmakers voted in favor of the peace deal on the provision that Article 8 of the additional provisions – a recent addition to the text – was removed.

The controversial clause stipulates “all powers of the senior military, civil and security posts…shall be transferred to the Presidency Council of the Council of Ministers immediately.” The “occupants” of such roles would then be decided by the Council within 20 days, with an additional 30 day extension if the roles were not filled immediately.

This sparked uproar within the house – as it transfers the power over military appointments to the Presidency Council and could affect the role of divisive but still popular army chief General Khalifa Haftar.

“Annulling Article 8 is a positive action because it was the demand of the cities to protect the army and its commanders, “al-Arebi said.

UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler welcomed the “endorsement in principle” of the Libyan Political Agreement, while taking note of the objection to Article 8.

“We will continue consultations with all parties to find [a] consensual solution to all outstanding issues,” he said in a statement.

The final point on the agenda of Monday’s HoR session was an amendment to the 2011 Constitutional Declaration to include references to the Libyan Political Agreement. A decision on the amendment needs 124 votes to pass and will be discussed next session, announced for Tuesday.

Despite being just over a month old, the UN-backed unity government has been plagued by walkouts and lack of endorsement from both sides.

Two of the Presidency Council’s nine members refused to put their names to the proposed cabinet, walking out in protest ten days ago.

Deputy Prime Minister Ali al-Gitrani from eastern Libya walked out saying that the Council was not showing commitment to the army and its leadership. State Minister Omar al-Aswad, from Zintan, on his part said that the western region was not well represented in the council.

But on Monday Al-Gitrani and Al-Aswad agreed to return to the Presidency Council in compliance with an HoR decision.

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