Tobruk parliament votes to reject UN-backed unity government

Lawmakers say Tobruk-based parliament in Libya has voted to reject UN-backed unity government

Photo by: AFP (Archive)
Photo by: AFP (Archive)

Libyan protesters wave national flags shouting slogans during a demonstration against an UN-sponsored agreement on forming a national unity government, on December 18, 2015 in the capital Tripoli.

Libya's Tobruk-based parliament on Monday voted to reject a UN-backed unity government, lawmakers said, in a major blow to international efforts to end unrest in the country.

A national unity government headed by businessman Fayez al-Sarraj and comprising 32 ministers was formed last week, but the recognised parliament needs to approve it for it to start working.

"We voted against endorsing the government and ask... to be presented with another government," parliamentarian Ali al Gaydi said.

The rejection was widely expected in the country.

A total of 104 members attended the session in the eastern city of Tobruk, 89 of whom voted against an administration and demanded a fresh proposal within 10 days.

Libya suffers from turmoil as it is currently divided between two parliaments after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with the General National Council (GNC) administering the country’s capital, Tripoli, and the rival House of Representatives being located in Tobruk.  

Parliament member Al Saliheen Abdelnabbi said the government had been rejected because its cabinet was too large.

He called for "a smaller government without this high number of ministries."

Fathi Abdelkarim, media adviser to parliament head Aguila Saleh, told journalists in Tobruk, "Ten days were given by the House of Representatives to form a new government with less ministries."

The unity government was formed under a UN-sponsored peace deal signed last month by less than half of the members of Libya's competing legislatures.

General Haftar 

The accord must also be approved by the parliament, but on Monday lawmakers voted for the removal of an article giving the unity government the power to approve top security and military positions.

The parliament would hold a vote on ratifying the deal on Tuesday if the UN mission to Libya - which has been working on the deal for more than a year - scrapped the article, Gaydi said.

Parliamentarian Fahmy Tuwaty said many lawmakers oppose the deal because of the article, which they fear will lead to powerful army chief General Khalifa Haftar losing his post.

Both Saleh and Haftar have criticised the UN-backed accord, which calls for a two-year transition period to end with parliamentary elections.

The head and members of the rival Tripoli-based General National Congress also oppose the deal.

While their support is not necessary for the unity government to start operating, they could prevent it from working out of the capital.

Prime minister-designate Sarraj, who has so far been operating out of Tunisia, arrived in Algeria for a visit on Monday as he continues to seek support from regional governments.

There was no immediate reaction from his government to the rejection.