A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, November 7, 2014

Does Libya Still Have Two Parliaments, Just One (and if so, Which?), or None After High Court Decision?

Just when you thought things couldn't get much worse in Libya, yesterday's Supreme Court decision declaring the August inflection of a new House of Representatives to be unconstitutional,  may have muddled things even further. Since August, there have been two rival parliaments, or claimants yo be parliament: a  House of Representatives generally recognized internationally as the legitimate legislature, now meeting in Tobruk, and a rump of the former legislative body, the General National Congress, sitting in Tripoli under the aegis of the "Libyan Dawn" Islamist militias controlling that town. Since the Supreme Court is also in Tripoli, the Tobruk Parliament has rejected the Court's decision.

The problem is that the Supreme Court did not officially explain its reasoning for the ruling, adding to confusion and to some uncertainty internationally; only the Tobruk body enjoys international recognition, but the Supreme Court ruling calls that legitimacy into question, though the Court may have acted under the guns of the militias. Although it has said ti will release the full text of the decision, it reportedly involves the adoption of the Electoral Law by fewer than the two-thirds majority of the former General National Congress provided for under the country's Constitutional Declaration.

Meanwhile, the rump of the GNC in Tripoli has said the decision leaves it free to "resume its legislative functions," although, since it consists of members not elected to the new House of Representatives, it lacks a quorum of its original strength.

Most international and UN efforts to resolve the standoff have focused on opening talks between the two rival factions aimed at finding a way to form  a coalition government. The United Nations issued a statement reiterating the need to create a national consensus, but that seems more difficult than ever now.

This has revived old concerns that the eastern region around Benghazi might secede.

And in the deep south, tribal fighting around the Sharara oilfields led to declining production and, in recent days, a takeover of the oilfields and a shutdown of production, though it is claimed this will resume "soon."  Some are portraying the tribal conflict as simply that, an ethnic conflict between the Berber-speaking Tuareg and the Nilo-Saharan-speaking Tebou, while others claim the two sides are now fighting as proxies for the rival governments in Tripoli and Tobruk.

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