The Tripoli government’s decision to step down is a welcome one. Khalifa Ghwell, the leader of this government, said on television last week that he and his government would be willing to step down if the Congress asked them to do so. The Congress is split between those who met as the State Council yesterday (5.4.16) and voted to dissolve the Congress, and Ghwell’s government and the spoilers in Congress like Nouri Abusahmaine, who does not recognise this decision.
The fact that Ghwell listened to those in the State Council is positive, because it hands over authority in western Libya to a single entity: the Government of National Accord (GNA). It could also put additional pressure on the House to accept the GNA and Presidency Council, with so much momentum already behind the new government.
Though the reaction to the news in Libya has been largely positive, including through welcoming statements from the UN and Western nations, Ghwell’s change of heart is a little suspicious. He made the decision to dissolve his government days after calling on militias in Tripoli to rise up against the GNA. There have been a number of questions about how he was incentivised to step down when only part of the Congress asked him to do so.
The State Council’s concurrent decision to accept the UN-facilitated Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) ironically violates the LPA, as only the House is authorised in that document to vote confidence or no confidence in the document and resulting governing institutions like the GNA.
This move, therefore, could undermine the already vulnerable legitimacy of the LPA as a document to reunify Libya and guide the country to a more peaceful transition path.
Last year, there were intense debates about the nature of the State Council, and how it should have a strictly advisory role. This move suggests the State Council may be eager to overstep into legislative functions, and may provoke a defencive response from hardline easterners like the Federalists and elements supporting General Khalifa Haftar that have been blocking House acceptance of the GNA.
UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler stated publicly today that while he welcomed the State Council’s action and conciliatory posture, it should not overstep its competencies.
The move should be viewed with measured suspicion, but tempered with some optimism. Business leaders in Libya today reacted very positively to the news, stating that such quick progress from the GNA was very promising.