Magharebia (Washington DC)

5 August 2014

Libyan Lawmakers Pick Leader

Benghazi — Libya's new House of Representatives on Monday (August 4th) elected a speaker, in defiance of Islamist MPs.

Aguila Salah Issa, a jurist from the eastern town of Al-Qobba, defeated Abu Bakr Biira in a tight runoff, Libya Herald reported.

The ceremony was attended by representatives of the Arab League, the United Nations and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation.

Islamist MPs and their allies from the western city of Misrata had boycotted the Tobruk ceremony held at a heavily-guarded hotel, branding it "anti-constitutional", AFP reported.

But world powers congratulated the newly-elected parliament and voiced hope that lawmakers would be able to restore stability to Libya and press ahead with democratic reform.

The Libya legislature was to have convened Monday in Benghazi, but for security reasons, the meeting was moved east to Tobruk, 1,500 kilometres from the capital.

During a closed-door planning meeting Saturday in Tobruk, then presiding MP Abu Bakr Biira issued a call for reconciliation between rival factions.

"I ask parliament members to put the cause of this country above anything else," he said. "We all know about killing and destruction in Libya, and we'll try to build a Libya of hope, construction, justice and future."

Biira invited the speaker of the outgoing General National Congress (GNC), Nouri Abu Sahmein, to attend the inaugural session.

In his turn, Mohamed Alagui, former head of the National Transitional Council (NTC) Freedoms and Human Rights Board, said in a statement addressing Abu Sahmein: "What now after 168 members arrived in Tobruk to attend the first session? Do you still cling to authority and false formalities?"

"This might be your last chance to show your love and loyalty to our homeland," he added.

Dr Salwa El-Deghali, a professor of constitutional law and former NTC member, said: "In case the former speaker of the GNC doesn't attend, then handing over and taking over is not a requirement; it's only a protocol measure for the new members to start their work. It's not like the constitutional oath, which is a requirement."

"The insistence of some former GNC members that the handover be made at the capital Tripoli at this particular time is suspicious," she added.

The House of Representatives was elected June 25th to replace the GNC.

"We've come here to show our resolve to continue to work to realise the aspirations of the Libyan people, and to show that we're up to the confidence, which our generous people have given us," engineer Adel Mahfouz, a legislator representing al-Ajilat, said.

"Libya has no other option but to stand on its feet again. We must tell everybody that guns and weapons won't govern us again after the February 17th revolution," rights activist Khalid al-Turjman said.

For her part, teacher Fathia Massoud al-Tarhouni said she was happy that the first session was moved to Tobruk "to preserve the lives of new parliament members".

"I attach much hope on them and hope they will make it up for us for what the former members did," she told Magharebia.

"I also hope that they'll support Operation Dignity to uproot terrorism and militants who came to Libya from everywhere," she said.

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