Libya has struggled by for just over 24 hours with only two governments but today it is back to having three, as well as a brand new State Council which has elected Abdulrahman Sewehli as its first president.
Khalifa Ghwell, the leader of the self-styled National Salvation government, who was reported yesterday to have offered his resignation to the rump of the General National Congress, this evening announced that he is still in power. He issued a statement urging all the 24 members of his cabinet to stay in office. He also ordered all institutions not to deal with the State Council.
Prior to holding the first meeting yesterday of the State Council at Tripoli’s Radisson Blu Mehary Hotel, several dozen GNC members who now are part it declared the GNC dissolved.
Yet GNC president Nuri Abu Sahmain has condemned the creation of the State Council and threatened a case in the Supreme Court to overthrow it and declare the Libyan Political Agreement unlawful. He is maintaining that the GNC is still very much in business. It seems reasonable to suppose that Ghwell’s change of mind came after talking with the man who appointed him premier.
However, both politicians are faced with an increasingly solid front from the UN-backed Presidency Council and its leader prime minister-designate, Faiez Serraj. The State Council was reportedly encouraged to press ahead with its formation by UNSMIL. Sewehli won the presidency with 53 votes from the 82 members present. The only other candidate, Belgassem Gzeit received 26 votes and there were three blank ballot papers.
US special envoy to Libya Jonathan Winer today said the “State Council can build bridges, with a tone and substance of consensus and saying it is ready to work in its consultative role with the House of Representatives”.
British ambassador Peter Millett also praised the State Council but pointed out that under the Libyan Political Agreement it is not a legislative organ. “It is consultative” said Millett in a social media message: “Legislative Authority is the House of Representatives”.
UNSMIL chief Martin Kobler last night returned to Tunis from his Tripoli meeting with Serraj. This evening he is understood to have flown to Istanbul. There he is expected to have his third meeting with Abdulhakim Belhaj, seen as a key powerbroker in the west of the country. It is possible that Kobler may also see Ali Salabi, viewed by many as the ideological brains and real head of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya.
Before he left Tunisia, the UNSMIL chief told Reuters that the internationally-recognised HoR in Tobruk risked being sidelined if it did not back the Government of National Accord. Kobler also warned that though Tripoli was currently stable “ It can change tomorrow, but now it is quiet. If the government [GNA] doesn’t deliver, it will not stay quiet”.
The Libya Herald has been unable to confirm a report that HoR president Ageela Saleh is due tomorrow to be meeting members of the Libya Dialogue in Cairo along with some of his parliamentary colleagues. Sources say that it is possible that the HoR may seek to vote Monday on the GNA, if not also the constitutional amendment.