Members of Libya’s High Council of State, the “Senate”, voted to suspend communications with the House of Representatives, the Tobruk-based parliament, until the latter reverses its decision to establish a Constitutional Court with based in Benghazi.
The measure passed with 68 votes in favor out of 79 and confirms the abrupt halt in the dialogue between the Chamber and the Senate of Libya that took place last week, casting doubt on the already very difficult prospect of elections in the North African country.
Therefore, the dialogue initiated by Mishri in Morocco with Aguila Saleh, president of the House of Representatives, on the birth of a new government in charge of leading the country to elections, on the constitutional basis and on sovereign positions, stalls.
The project to establish the Constitutional Court provides for the abolition of the Constitutional Chamber within the Supreme Court in the capital and the change of its name to the Court of Cassation.
The split between the Senate and the parliament stems from the move by the Tobruk-based House of Representatives of Libya, which last week voted to create a Constitutional Court in the city of Benghazi, in Cyrenaica, as an alternative to the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court , which is based in Tripoli.
The project provides for the establishment of a Constitutional Court composed of 13 members.
The President of the Court and his two deputies are appointed by the Parliament, while six other members are chosen respectively by the Parliament and by the High Council of State.
The nine meeting in what is called the General Assembly finally nominate the remaining members of the Court for a total of 13.
The new Court will be responsible for the judicial review of the constitutionality of the laws and regulations issued which regulate the activity of the legislative authority.
It is not allowed to accept the appeal of unconstitutionality of any text of law in a preliminary judgment except by the head of state, the president of the Chamber of Representatives, ten deputies or the president of the Council of Ministers. The new Court proposed by the parliament will also interpret the texts of the laws in case of application divergence.
The parliament’s decision was widely rejected by both the political and judicial sides of Tripolitania, who oppose the abolition of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court located in the capital Tripoli, activated this year after five years of suspension.
In Libya, the Constitutional Chamber decides on cases and appeals of a constitutional and judicial nature, questions and controversies on laws, regulations and decisions issued by the two authorities, the executive and the legislative one, as well as any violation or dispute of the constitutional declaration.
The decision could guarantee the Speaker of the Chamber, Aguila Saleh, the power to prevent any “unwelcome” publication in the Official Gazette, where the Prime Minister’s decisions are also published.
The Eastern House of Representatives also unanimously approved a law last week that transfers the affiliation of the Official Gazette from the Ministry of Justice to the Parliament elected in 2014 and which meets in the east of the country.
This new development must be seen in the broader context of the deep political crisis that has long been blocking Libya’s progress towards elections. Parliament, in fact, considers the government of national unity (GUN) of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dabaiba, in power in Tripoli and recognized by the international community, to have lapsed.
The elections to replace the GUN with an executive authority chosen by the Libyan population should have been held on December 24, 2021, but were postponed due to disagreements on the electoral law and the criteria for candidacy in the presence of the Republic.
The government in charge in Tripoli, for its part, says it intends to cede power only to an elected authority and says it is in favor of holding elections as soon as possible.
The UN envoy in Libya, the Senegalese Abdoulaye Bathily, was trying to bring together the presidents of the House of Representatives and the High Council of State (the “Senate” based in Tripoli) to draw up the electoral base which should provide a framework legal for elections. At present it is not yet clear whether the UN attempt will be successful.
On December 8, the Libyan Presidential Council announced an initiative to resolve the crisis, which includes consultative meetings with representatives of the Tobruk-based Parliament and the High Council of State, the Libyan “Senate”, in coordination with the envoy of the United Nations support mission (Unsmil), Abdoulaye Bathily.
In a press release, the Presidency Council stated that the initiative aims to prepare as a priority a constitutional dialogue to conclude the transitional stages.
The Presidency Council said it wants to reach a consensus between the House of Representatives and the High Council of State to issue a constitutional rule for the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections, which addresses the outstanding controversial points.