The implications of the political scene in Egypt have had their impact on the entire region, particularly in Libya. Not only has it provoked the enthusiasm of the Libyan youth and heated up discussions on social media networks between the supporters of the coup in Egypt and the supporters of the stance of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood party, it has led to a chaotic political scene.

The implications of the political scene in Egypt have had their impact on the entire region, particularly in Libya. Not only has it provoked the enthusiasm of the Libyan youth and heated up discussions on social media networks between the supporters of the coup in Egypt and the supporters of the stance of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood party, it has led to a chaotic political scene. Moreover, it instigated provocative and precautionary statements from all the political parties in Libya as they showed concern about the impact of the coup in Egypt on the Libyan youth who aspire to bring about change.

Legitimacy of the General National Congress (GNC)

Given that Libya has no army as per the common standards and perception that could take the lead, if necessary, and avert the fall of Libya in the spirals of civil war, the Fatwa office, among others, has been out calling people to think twice before taking any action. The calls were focused on calling all parties to deflect the attempts of burring Libya in a swamp of conflicts of interests and to collaborate to maintain the legitimacy of the General National Congress (GNC) and support it until the end of its term and then to vote on the new Constitution that will shape the nature of the ruling regime in the country.

The National Front Party, the successor of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) – whose president, Mohamed el-Magariaf used to be the president of the GNC before he resigned his position in last May – issued a statement about the latest political event in which he emphasized that the General National Congress of Libya is the only legal representative of Libyans; hence it has to show responsibility towards them and to focus on continuing to meet the national obligations of the interim phase.

The roadmap

All the while, Libyan tribes have availed themselves of the political situation in Libya and called for an urgent meeting in the city of Zintan, which is situated in the western part of Libya. The meeting was attended by representatives of tribes from the east, the west and the south parts of Libya. In its final statement, tribes proclaimed a new roadmap urging the General National Congress to comply with for the best interest of Libya.

The said roadmap included a number of resolutions, the most important of which is the immediately adoption of the 1951 Constitution and the 1963 amendments thereof, for a temporary period of time, and the suspension of the operations of all Libyan political parties until a new constitution is endorsed. To this effect, not only have the political elite in Libya expressed their vehement resentment, but also refused to allow tribalism to lead the country again.

Moreover, tribes agreed to (i) consider the Libyan government a caretaker government, (ii) the number of government’s members to be reduced, (iii) and to bar Libyans who are dual national holders from being members in the government. The role of the Grand Mufti of Libya, who is monopolizing the Fatwa, was also criticized and so tribes demanded that Fatwa be under the jurisdiction of Libya’s Dar Al-Ifta’ (the Fatwa office) as a General Fatwa Office.   

Membership suspension

In response to the controversial meeting of the Libyan tribes, political parties decided to take a stand and suspended their participation in the General National Congress.  The most controversial positions of all political parties was that of Libya’s National Forces Alliance, whose president Mahmoud Jibril is the former Minister of Planning under Gaddafi and also the first prime minister in the post-revolution period.

The alliance, known for its liberal inclinations, decided to suspend the membership of its representatives in the GNC. The suspension, except in the work which pertains to the process of preparing the Constitutional Drafting Committee Election Law, was announced by the spokesperson of the alliance in a press conference organized by the alliance. Not only was the decision made on the ground that the General National Congress is responsible for all the mistakes made in the previous phase, but also because GNC endorsed laws of no priority resulting in wasting time discussing minor issues that made the political, socioeconomic and security scene in Libya more complex. The coalition defended its decision in its issued statement, and indicated the influence of certain parties on the decisions of the GNC, which caused its failure in accomplishing the most important requirements of the phase, namely the national reconciliation and transitional justice, not to mention its failure to restore order, security and stability in Libya.

The Muslim Brotherhood of Libya

The response of the Justice and Construction Party (JCP) or Justice and Development Party (Hizb Al-Adala Wal-Bina) – the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm in Libya – was no different. The party too took a decision to freeze its participation in the GNC and the interim government and to allow its members to continue working at the GNC with absolute independence far from the policies and program of the party. The decision was justified on the grounds that it will give the prime minister the opportunity to deal with his ministers as a government of technocrats “according to the national interest.”

In its statement, the JCP called for “promoting stability in Libya” and demanded GNC to embrace all the initiatives made available on the table to mitigate the severity of conflicts, including the proposition to drop the political isolation law in a public referendum, particularly since JCP defends this controversial law. The party urged the GNC to either develop the current constitutional declaration or to amend the constitution of 1963 under the supervision of a special technical committee to be formed solely for this particular purpose.

Evading responsibility

According to remarks made by some observers, the stance of the National Forces Alliance was described as an attempt to jump off a sinking ship.  Whilst the decision made was intended to win youth and secure a place in their future plans, it is still deemed illegal and may pose the risk of having its representatives in the congress be replaced. Some legal experts commented on the stance of the Muslim Brotherhood Party saying that from a legal viewpoint it is right and does not contravene the rules of procedure of the General National Congress.

However, the decision made shows the attempt of the party to evade the responsibility for the mistakes of the previous phase, particularly since the partisan conflict in that phase averted the issuance of the most important resolutions to save the country.

“When people elect their representatives in the parliament, either through political parties or directly, they would like to see the promises made by the party or the candidate they voted for be realized. Thus, if a candidate or party decides to suspend or freeze its or his work, voters should be either consulted or approached to clarify the reasons of such a decision,” says Professor Al Mabruk Sultan.

Partisan conflict

“The decisions of the most two most important political parties – that is to freeze their memberships in the General National Congress – were made without consulting these parties’ voters or providing them with justifications. Rather, they played the card of the ‘national interest of Libya’ to justify their decision”, Prof. Sultan added. This is because the partisan conflict constrained the work of the GNC as each political party desired to enforce its vision on the GNC, he believes.

The decision of the Muslim Brotherhood Party is made due to the political scene in Egypt that caused the removal of Mohamed Morsi from the presidency. The dramatic change in Egypt left the party with no choice and confined its influence. The Alliance, on the other hand, tried to avail itself of the opportunity and decided to freeze its membership to keep the GNC theoretically free of the pressure of political parties, and make its meetings practically, of no importance, Prof. Sultan explained, and had not missed to notice that the decision of political parties to freeze their membership is interlinked. While the political scene in Egypt still throws its shades on the political scene in Libya, the GNC should not be dependent on the events occurring in other countries. Rather, the members of the GNC need to reach an agreement and agree to make a bit of a compromise to protect the supreme national interest. Instead of freezing their memberships, the members of each political party, who have been elected in the GNC, therefore, should avoid all that which could disrupt the development of Libya and its constitution at this critical stage. This is because the decision made by the said political parties will disable this legislative body, namely GNC.

The return of Mahmoud Jibril

Samir al-Saadawi, a journalist and a writer, seems to have a different opinion. “The decision of the Alliance to suspend its participation in the legislative sessions is only made to pressure other parliament members to reconsider the political isolation law. It is to show the power of the Alliance to prevent the GNC from issuing vital and critical resolutions and decisions,” he said. The ground on which the alliance justified its decision is absolutely deceiving, he added. In fact, it is most likely that the alliance will gradually start taking steps to completely hinder the work of the GNC to enforce early elections so people elect new parliament members as the party seems to be convinced that it will win the majority of its seats and then not only be able to revoke the political isolation law, but allow Mahmoud Jibril to assume a high position.”

Infringement of democracy 

Osama Kaabar, one of the founding members of the political isolation coordination committee said: “Calling for revoking the democratic system in Libya, freezing the GNC and then replacing it with a national salvation government, not only are obvious infringements on the legitimacy of the state and its democratic system, but are also considered attempts at extinguishing the revolution.” Though he did not negate the need to introduce new amendments and adjustments to the GNC such as freezing the work of parties and applying the political isolation law, he believes these actions should be arranged through legal channels and dialogue, while ensuring, at the same time, to consider only the best interest of the country and the revolution.