Libya’s delay in filling key posts aimed at keeping central bank governor

Despite decisions by the House of Representatives to remove him from office, Saddek Elkaber, who is perceived as a Muslim Brotherhood protégé, has kept his post for the last ten years.
Monday 03/05/2021
Central Bank of Libya director, Saddek Elkaber, seaks at  a news conference in Tripoli. (REUTERS)
Central Bank of Libya director, Saddek Elkaber, seaks at a news conference in Tripoli. (REUTERS)

TRIPOLI - Libyan political analysts view with suspicion the slowing down of the  appointment process for new figures in key government positions.

They do not rule out the possibility that the ultimate aim of the jockeying around the process aims to delay the appointments so as to maintain the incumbents in place, especially the governor of the Central Bank, Saddek Elkaber, who has been entrenched in the same position for nearly ten years.

The analysts believe that current limbo may be the result of a deal between the Speaker of Parliament, Aguila Saleh and the Speaker of the State Council, Khaled al-Mishri.

The State Council wrote to the House of Representatives (Parliament) on Saturday regarding the nominations for the sovereign positions to be filled, saying,  “We have noticed that the outputs referred to us from your committee are inconsistent with what was previously agreed upon in Bouznika’s meetings. This indicates that there is a different basis for the work of the committees in the two chambers ”.

While the State Council lauded the House of Representatives’ efforts to “reach a consensus regarding the holders of the leadership positions in sovereign posts pursuant to Article 15 of the Political Agreement on consultation between the two chambers in particular,” the Council pointed out however that it remains committed to what has been previously agreed.

It added that in case parliament “wishes to make any modifications to the criteria and mechanisms, we have no objection to holding additional meetings and discussions to reach common ground. ”

The position of the State Council strengthened suspicions  about its intent to circumvent the Bouznika understandings on the reshuffling of sovereign positions, so as to keep the incumbents in their posts.

Sayyida al-Yaqoubi, a member of the State Council and the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, expressed the belief that “with Mishri’s message, it seemed that the deal between the two councils (the State Council and the House of Representatives) was over.”

Outside view of the Central Bank of Libya in Tripoli. (REUTERS)

She added in a Facebook post, “There are indications of delays on the horizon. Where has the State Council been all this time?”

“It did not mention before the procedures followed in nominating candidates for sovereign positions, while now it occurs to it to suspend the process under the pretext of the procedures agreed upon in Bouznika”.

Former member of the General National Congress, Tawfiq al-Shuhaibi, said, “In short, the sovereign positions will not be changed,” adding, “There is a distribution of roles between the presidents of the House of Representatives and the State Council and the goal is to keep Elkaber and others in position. The comprehensive solution resides in holding parliamentary and presidential elections at the same time.”

Observers link the stalled parliamentary approval of the 2021 budget to disagreements over the distribution of sovereign positions. This means that the budget crisis is on its way to a solution since an understanding has been reached over the sovereign positions.

The same observers do not rule out that international stakeholders in Libya, especially Turkey, that have close ties to the Libyan central bank governor, could be behind the delay which deprives Libyans of the opportunity to replace a figure accused of gross mismanagement that has adversely impacted the living conditions of the population.

The oil-rich North African nation has gone through many crises during Elkaber’s tenure, starting with the liquidity crisis and the salary freeze, to the decline of the dinar’s exchange value against the dollar, which has had a disastrous effect on Libyans’ purchasing power.

Despite decisions by the House of Representatives to remove him from office, Elkaber , who is perceived as a Muslim Brotherhood protégé, has kept his post.

The authorities in the east and the tribes supporting them have often accused the Central Bank of Libya of distributing wealth unfairly and favouring pro-Islamist businessmen as well as the authorities in the west, while marginalising the eastern region, where most of the oil fields are located.

Last week, the Libyan parliament said it had sent the names of its nominees for sovereign positions to the State Consultative Council.

These positions include the governor of the Central Bank of Libya, the heads of the Higher National Elections Commission, the Audit Bureau, the Administrative Control Authority, the Anti-Corruption Commission, the Attorney General and the president of the Supreme Court.

On April 20, the Libyan parliament chose the head of the investigations department in the office of the Attorney General Al-Siddiq Al-Sour to be Attorney General.

The criteria for selecting candidates were agreed upon in the Bouznika talks in Morocco, last October, based on quotas between Libya’s three historical regions (Tripoli, Cyrenaica and Fezzan).

Article 15 of the Political Agreement provides for consultations between parliament and the State Consultative Council to determine who will hold these positions.