UN accuses Libyan parliament of subverting political process

UN-brokered ceasefire largely holds in Tripoli after week of clashes left 61 dead

Ghassan Salame, U.N. Libya envoy, arrives for a meeting in Tunis, Tunisia September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Zoubeir Souissi
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The UN envoy to Libya has savaged the country’s parliament and accused it of undermining political progress to protect its own interests.

In an unprecedented attack, Ghassan Salame said parliament members were deliberately delaying the onset of elections and preventing a change in leadership.

“I will not mince words. Many members of the House of Representatives are failing to do their job. They seek to subvert the political process to their own ends, behind the guise of procedure,” Mr Salame told the UN Security Council.

“It is clear; they simply have no intention of relinquishing their positions. They have put in place legal provisions to maintain their authority in perpetuity. And for the personal ambitions of a few, all Libya’s citizens have paid a steep price,” he said.

Mr Salame’s condemnation followed a week of heavy clashes in the capital, Tripoli, that left 61 people dead, including women and children, 159 injured and at least 12 unaccounted for, according to the health ministry.

Late on Tuesday the rival militias, many of whom theoretically operate under the UN-backed unity government in Tripoli, agreed to a UN-brokered ceasefire that has largely held despite reports of sporadic gunfire.

Following a Paris summit in May, four of Libya’s key power centres supposedly agreed to hold elections in December this year. The talks were attended by leaders of the UN-backed government in Tripoli, the House of Representatives, the Libyan National Army and an advisory body known as the State Council. Holding elections would, however, require an electoral law that parliament has repeatedly failed to endorse.

French President Emmanuel Macron was derided for pushing for elections at an unsuitable time, given the political divisions and government weakness. Earlier this week Italy said France was to blame for the Tripoli clashes that shattered any illusion of security in a city run by state-legitimised militias.

“Time and time again, the House of Representatives has promised to produce referendum and election legislation. After three sessions dedicated to the referendum law, and numerous delays, the House of Representatives has failed to deliver this legislation,” said Mr Salame.

“Those who have an interest in maintaining the status quo have spared no efforts to resist the needed change,” he added.

The parliament, based in the eastern city of Tobruk, has long been chastised for its ineptitude. Many of its meetings are cancelled or postponed because not enough of its member attend and it has failed to approve the UN-backed government in Tripoli.

Parliament leader Ageela Saleh has previously been sanctioned by the European Union for undermining the political transition.


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In his comments to the Security Council, Mr Salame appeared to suggest patience had run thin.

“I have been exhausting the traditional avenues to move the legislative process forward. So far, they have either been blocked or they are designed to lead nowhere," he said.

“If legislation is not produced soon, we will close the chapter on this approach. There are other ways to achieve peaceful political change, and we will embrace them with no hesitation, indeed with enthusiasm.”

Mr Salame did not spell out the alternative courses of action he had in mind.