By Libya Herald reporter
Malta, 18 February 2015:
The House of Representatives (HoR) voted on Monday to create the role of General Commander of . . .[restrict]the armed forces, the HoR Media Office reported.
The decision was carried by 53 out of 81 members present. The number of Representatives reported to have voted in favour of the new role was larger than expected, as Libya Herald had been led to believe that only about 40 Representatives were in favour of creating such a role.
The new General Commander will be chosen by direct voting within the HoR from a list of candidates who nominate themselves for the role at a later date, the report said.
There is, nevertheless, strong opposition within the HoR for the creation of such a role, not least from the House Defence and National Security Committee.
It will be recalled that Mosab Al-Abed, Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Defence and National Security Committee, told Libya Herald last week that the House was not about to appoint Khalifa Hafter as the General Commander of the Armed Forces.
Al-Abed had at the time been speaking on the background of increasing reports that HoR President Agheela Salah was considering taking the unilateral decision of appointing Hafter General Commander of the Libyan armed forces.
The leadership of the HoR had been given the power to act as Supreme Commander of the Libyan Armed Forces, however, Al-Abed had pointed out that this power was granted to the leadership as a whole, meaning the President and his two Deputies, and not exclusively to Salah.
Moreover, Al-Abed had also pointed out that the power was granted for a limited period of three months – a time frame that had now elapsed.
Al-Abed was also keen to point out that the HoR and his Defence and National Security Committee were determined that there is civilian oversight on Libya’s post 17 February 2011 army, and that the new democratically accountable army is headed by a civilian.
Furthermore, he had pointed out that Hafter is now aged 74 and that again under existing laws he could not hold the position of General Commander. The labour laws would have to be amended so as to appoint him, he had explained.
It will also be recalled that several hundred demonstrators had gathered in Benghazi last Friday demanding the creation of a military council to be headed by General Khalifa Hafter.
In what was seen as a co-ordinated move by Hafter supporters, there were similar demonstrations in Beida and Tobruk as well.
The Cyrenaica protests indicate that the growing rift between Hafter and Thinni has not been bridged despite efforts by House of Representatives’ President Ageela Saleh Gwaider.