Tripoli and Benghazi — Nearly a hundred members of Libya's General National Congress (GNC) walked out on Sunday (October 27th), leaving the assembly short of the number needed to get anything done.
The legislators left in protest of a last-minute change in the agenda. The Sunday session was originally supposed to discuss the Cyrenaica government declaration as well as the establishment of the Libyan Revolutionaries Operation Room (LROR) and the funds allocated to it, nearly a billion Libyan dinars.
The other topics on the agenda were the oil supply, the kidnapping of interim Prime Minister Ali Zidan and the upcoming municipal elections.
Deputy Tawfiq Shahibi from the National Forces Alliance pointed out that an agreement had been reached Saturday about the items to be included in the agenda. It was all postponed due to the declaration of the territory of Cyrenaica as well as some other issues.
Member Asma Serbi said she submitted a memorandum signed by 80 members to discuss ten clear and explicit demands to be included in the agenda. "Unfortunately," she said, "we were labelled by some members as traitors because of these demands."
Ninety-five congressmen from the National Forces Alliance, the Block of Independent Opinion and the Ya Biladi block walked out of the session. They signed a petition demanding a roadmap holding the government accountable.
They also demanded the establishment of a parliamentary committee to investigate the kidnapping of Prime Minister Zidan, the abolition of the GNC president's authority, and the activation of the GNC decision to integrate the armed forces, and finally, the dissolution of the LROR.
In addition, they called for the election of a GNC vice president, a position that has been vacant since the resignation of First Deputy Jumaa Ateega. They further demanded the investigation of the case of the 900 million dinars, the funds that were given to the LROR supposedly disbursed as salaries and retroactive benefits, and adherence to the agenda issued by the political coalitions.
The statement also asked for the activation of a dialogue and national reconciliation through the GNC, and setting up a roadmap for the transitional period.
GNC President Nouri Abu Sahmein pointed out that in the event members who walked out did not return, the congress must decide on a mechanism for dealing with suspending sessions. He said this mechanism should be in line with legal sovereignty and legislative authority.
Abu Sahmein also commented on the Cyrenaica government announcement in an earlier media interview broadcast on the independent news channel Al Nabaa. "The only project we see as legitimate is the General National Congress that was chosen by the people. All other announcements represent only the individuals who have declared them," the president said.
"The members are supposed to put the interests of Libya above everything else," said Salma Aljamih, an economics student. "We are fed up, and tired of the deteriorating situation within the GNC and with lawlessness."
Yalem Badri, a 38-year-old government employee from Tripoli said, "Members of the National Congress were elected by Libyans, but these members deceived Libyans. The choice of Libyans turned against them. Now there are no signs of construction or progress."
"Conflicts always occur in the world's parliaments," said Youssef al-Machay, 44. "However, they take place for the benefit of the country and not for personal benefit, or to serve one block over the other as happens here."
According to Jamal Ali, a 46-year-old employee of the antiquities office in Sabratha, "A number of essential points must be included in any initiative of national dialogue. It should include a change in the prevailing discourse, the return of displaced persons to their homes, renouncing narrow territorial claims, and activating the army and police based on respect and patriotism."
For his part, 26-year-old Abdullah Mousa, a member of the February 17th coalition and founder of Political Isolation Co-ordination, said that "the street wants the safety of the country... the street wants safety and security"
"The initiative must also avoid political conflicts, both in the GNC or in the government and not involve tribes in this conflict," Mousa said. "We must hold hands together with the rebels until we complete the construction phase of the army and police."