Magharebia (Washington DC)

Libya Woes Worsen With Duelling Premiers

Photo: Mohammed El Shaiky/Xinhua
A scene of clashes in Benghazi (file photo).

Benghazi and Essam Mohamed in Tripoli — Libya's contested new cabinet convened Thursday (May 29th), as did the outgoing administration that refuses to hand over power, AFP reported.

A source in new Prime Minister Ahmed Miitig's office said his team met at a Tripoli hotel. The seat of government is still occupied by the outgoing cabinet.

Amid the political chaos, the High National Elections Commission (HNEC) announced that Libya would go to the polls on June 25th as planned to elect a replacement for the General National Congress (GNC).

Libya's instability deepened Wednesday with outgoing premier Abdullah al-Thani submitting a request for a court ruling on whether he must hand over power to his GNC-elected successor.

Critics have charged that Miitig was "illegally elected" as prime minister in a measure imposed by Islamists.

"The people don't understand what's going on," journalist Bachir Chouikh explained. "There are problems and conflicts at the GNC that are being exported to the government and people."

Soad Sultan, a National Forces Alliance MP who opposes Miitig's government, said she was not against Miitig himself, but to the procedures taken at the General National Congress (GNC).

"I can see that things are retracting, and if Miitig steps down, he will gain more than if he forms the government," Sultan said.

In her turn, independent MP Nadia Rashed said that the government was illegitimate and unconstitutional because it only received 113 votes instead of the necessary 120.

Independent MP Hussein al-Ansari, who initially opposed Miitig's government and then voted for it in the GNC, said, "We've opened channels of dialogue and hope the other parties will open to each other. If all parties give precedence to national interests, we'll reach a satisfactory agreement."

"This is an attempt to mend fences about giving confidence to Miitig's government," he told Magharebia.

"The government didn't get the necessary votes at the GNC," he said. "Many GNC members adopt such an opinion. Another aspect of the problem is that the government formation should be more representative of Libyans even though it is an interim government."

For their part, Libyans expressed frustration with the endless political disputes.

Salema Abdul Azeem, a fourth year faculty of engineering student, said, "It's a conflict over power and money while citizens get killed by rockets, insecurity and instability."

Her colleague Safa Saad said, "If Miitig steps down, it will be better. The atmosphere became very tense after he was elected. He is from Misrata, and many people fear him."

"I hope the day comes when I can see Libya secure and stable, and where social justice and freedom prevail, instead of our actual state of survival of the fittest," commented Raja Abdul Jalil, a 33-year-old physiotherapist.

"We're tired of conflicts over power," remarked Youssef al-Sharif, a trader in the al-Dhahra area of Tripoli. "People now say they don't want any parties."

Youssef, a former revolutionary guarding an intersection in Tripoli, asked: "Isn't it about time they sat together and talked so the country and people can rest?"

"Even streets are empty at night, although the weather is very nice," he added.

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