Protesters storm Libya’s parliament building amid political deadlock, power cuts
Protesters stormed Libya’s parliament building in the eastern city of Tobruk on Friday, demonstrating against deteriorating living conditions and political deadlock, Libyan media reported.
Several television channels said that protesters had managed to penetrate the building and committed acts of vandalism, while media outlets showed images of thick columns of black smoke coming from its perimeter as angry young protesters burned tyres.
Other media reports said part of the building had been burned.
The parliament building was empty as Friday falls on the weekend in Libya.
Libya’s parliament, or House of Representatives, has been based in Tobruk, hundreds of kilometres (miles) east of the capital Tripoli, since an east-west schism in 2014 following the revolt that toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi three years earlier.
A rival body, formally known as the High Council of State, is based in Tripoli.
Images Friday showed that a protester driving a bulldozer had managed to smash through part of a gate, allowing other demonstrators to enter more easily, while cars of officials were set on fire.
Other protesters, some brandishing the green flags of the Kadhafi regime, threw office documents into the air.
Libya has endured several days of power cuts, worsened by the blockade of several oil facilities against the backdrop of political rivalries.
“We want the lights to work,” protesters chanted.
Lawmaker Balkheir Alshaab told Libyan channel Al-Ahrar: “We must recognise our failure and immediately withdraw from the political scene.”
Talks fail to resolve stalemate
Presidential and parliamentary elections, originally set for December last year, were meant to cap a UN-led peace process following the end of the last major round of violence in 2020.
But the vote never took place due to several contentious candidacies and deep disagreements over the polls’ legal basis between rival power centres in the east and west.
>> The reasons behind the delays in Libya’s ‘impossible’ presidential vote
The United Nations said Thursday that talks between the rival Libyan institutions aimed at breaking the deadlock had failed to resolve key differences.
Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh and High Council of State president Khaled al-Mishri met at the UN in Geneva for three days of talks to discuss a draft constitutional framework for elections.
While some progress was made, it was not enough to move forward towards elections, with the two sides still at odds over who can stand in presidential elections, said the UN’s top Libya envoy Stephanie Williams, who facilitated the talks.
The prospect of elections appears as distant as ever since the HoR, elected in 2014, appointed a rival government to replace that of interim prime minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, arguing that his mandate has expired.
Recent weeks have seen repeated skirmishes between armed groups in Tripoli, prompting fears of a return to full-scale conflict.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation said Monday that a blockade at oil installations in the central coastal region of Sirte meant it may declare force majeur, a measure freeing it of contractual obligations due to circumstances beyond its control.
A blockade of two major oil export terminals and several oilfields began in April, after the eastern-based parliament appointed former interior minister Fathi Bashagha as premier.