New Libyan cabinet formed but divisions remain

Friday 22/01/2016
Libyan Prime Minister-designate Faiez al-Sarraj (L), and EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Tunis

TUNIS - The Libyan Presidency Council agreed to a gov­ernment of 32 ministries, a key step in forming a national unity govern­ment. The ministers, along with two deputies for each ministry, are to be selected to provide equita­ble representation of Libya’s three main regions.
Led by Prime Minister-designate Faiez al-Sarraj and appointed un­der the UN-brokered Libya Political Agreement (LPA) signed in Decem­ber and approved by the UN Secu­rity Council, the council made its announcement of the government plan on January 18th, two days af­ter the official deadline.
Arguments over who to appoint and aspects of the LPA led the council to miss that target date. Even then, two participants walked out at the last minute.
By wide agreement among the Libyan politicians and activists choosing the government was the easy part. Pending approval by the House of Representatives (HoR) — the most recent internationally recognised Libyan government — is viewed as more difficult. Establish­ing the administration in Tripoli also faces massive obstacles.
Even after the deadline passed, there were conflicting views re­garding the size of government. Having initially worked on the idea of a 22-member cabinet, with min­isters and deputies from across the country, the council considered one with nine “super-ministries”.
It was only when HoR mem­bers told the council that this was unacceptable, that the idea was dumped. The council then decided on even more ministries than ini­tially suggested.
As a result, ministers have been chosen in the hope of getting the government approved by the HoR. Ministries were allocated to towns and areas whose representatives in many cases effectively named the minister.
Despite a demand by UN Special Envoy Martin Kobler that one-third of governmental position be occu­pied by women, only one woman was appointed to the cabinet. Asma al-Usta was reportedly di­rectly chosen by Sarraj as Culture minister.
The result is that the government is massive, leading to concerns it will be unmanageable. With the nine members of the Presidency Council, the government will have 105 ministers. In addition to the 32 cabinet ministers there will be 64 deputy ministers, two per minis­try. These were to be selected on the basis of location.
Geopolitics plays a further role in the process. Of the three ministers in each ministry, one is to come from each of the country’s tradi­tional provinces of Tripolitania, Cyrenaica or Fezzan.
Attention is now on the HoR and whether it will approve the unity government. It is scheduled to meet January 25th.