By Moutaz Ali.
Tripoli, 22 June 2014:
Congress members who turned up today to debate the long delayed 2014 budget found themselves . . .[restrict]redundant earlier than anticipated. After waiting much of the day to achieve the necessary quorum of 94 needed for a session to legal, they were then informed that the LD 56.5-billion budget had already been automatically approved on a technicality.
Members had started to arrive at 9.30 am but it was 3.30 pm before the necessary quorum was reached. During that time, there was an attempt to hold a ‘consultative’ session to discuss the government’s spending plans, but little came of it. Once the session finally started, headed by the Congress president Nuri Abu Sahmain, members were then told the budget had ready been approved by default.
Under its own rules, it had to be either rejected or approved within four months of being requested by the prime minister. When former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan submitted the budget at the end of January, Congress had ignored it and then regularly delayed voting on it. As a result, members were told, it had become legal at the end of May.
Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni had in fact stated the situation some days ago but members present today had thought that they would still be able to to debate the proposal and vote on it. Informed of the contrary, they appear to have accepted the situation as a fait accompli.
This may yet be challenged, however, by the Central Bank. There have been unconfirmed reports that it may seek direction from the courts as to the legality of the situation.
The lack of a quorum for much of the day was deliberate. Several members refused to attend the session.
Khoms Congressman Abdulmonem Al-Yaser told the Libya Herald that he did not want to go. “There are people in Congress we have we lost confidence in. They may use our presence to get the required quorum to legally run the session.” He added that they might then pass other decisions, since members were no longer being given a proper agenda before the session.
“I am staying home in my town among the people who elected me”, said Congressman Abdullah Gmati, from Gemenis . “This session is just a desperate attempt by some of members to provide money to the Shield forces. They are running out of money and they want Congress to give it to them.”
Two Congress members, Ahmed Langhi from Benghazi and Fahim Al-Rateb from Tocra, found themselves being physically prevented from attending the session. Last night they were stopped by locals from boarding a plane at Labraq airport to take them to Tripoli
“When people living near to the airport found out there were members of the GNC trying to get on the plane they told the crew to not let them fly,” an official at the airport said.
“The crew has to do what these people told them to do and asked the Congress members to leave the aircraft.” [/restrict]