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Libya: the Parliament of Tobruk invaded by demonstrators

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Social anger has taken a new turn in Libya. Demonstrators took over the seat of the Libyan Parliament in Tobruk, in the east of the country, on Friday July 1, to protest against the deterioration of living conditions and the carelessness of their leaders.

According to several television channels, demonstrators entered the building and carried out looting. Images released by the media showed thick columns of black smoke rising from the perimeter of the building after angry young protesters burned tires. Other media claimed that part of the building was burnt down. Parliament was empty when protesters entered, Friday being a public holiday in Libya.

A bulldozer driven by a protester smashed through part of the building’s compound gate, making it easier for protesters to burst inside, footage shows. Deputies’ cars were set on fire. Later, more construction machinery arrived and began to smash through sections of the building’s walls. Other demonstrators, some of whom were waving green flags of Muammar Gaddafi’s former regime, threw documents into the air that they collected from the offices.

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While acknowledging “the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully”Parliament condemned on the night of Friday to Saturday “acts of vandalism and fire” from his seat.

Prime Minister of the Tripoli-based government, Abdelhamid Dbeibah, for his part assured on Twitter “join his voice” to that of the protesters, calling for the holding of elections.

Negotiations stalled

These troubles come as the North African country, plunged into chaos since the fall of Gaddafi in 2011, has been plagued for several days by long power cuts, breakdowns aggravated by the blockage of several oil installations on the background political disputes between rival camps.

“We must recognize our failure and immediately withdraw from the political scene”said a deputy, Balkheir Alshaab, quoted by the Libya al-Ahrar channel. “I call on my fellow deputies as well as the members of the Council of State [Chambre haute] to resign collectively to respect the will of the Libyan people and preserve the stability of Libya”added another elected official, Ziad Dgheim, quoted by the same media.

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Two governments have been vying for power since March: one based in Tripoli and led by Abdelhamid Dbeibah since 2021 and another led by Fathi Bachagha and supported by the Tobruk Parliament and Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the strongman of the East .

Presidential and legislative polls were originally scheduled to be held in December 2021 in Libya, to cap a United Nations (UN)-sponsored peace process after violence in 2020. But they have been postponed indefinitely due to sharp differences between political rivals and tensions on the ground.

The latest round of talks at the UN between the presidents of the two rival chambers – Aguila Saleh of the Tobruk House of Representatives, and Khaled el-Mechri of the Tripoli-based High Council of State – ended on Thursday without an agreement on a constitutional framework allowing the holding of elections.

Demonstrations in Tripoli and other cities

Other similar demonstrations took place on Friday in Tripoli and other Libyan cities. In the capital, demonstrators brandished portraits of MM. Dbeibah and Bachagha crossed out with Xs, a sign of their rejection.

Demonstrators gather in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square on July 1, 2022 to protest against the country's political situation and living conditions.

The Libyan National Oil Company (NOC) announced Thursday losses of more than 3.5 billion dollars (about 3.3 billion euros) resulting from the forced closure of major oil sites since mid-April, and decreed the ‘state of “force majeure” on some facilities.

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According to the NOC, production has “severely dropped” and exports fell between “365,000 and 409,000 barrels per day, a loss of 865,000 barrels per day” compared to the average production before April. Added to this are losses of 220 million m3 of gas daily, which are nevertheless necessary to supply the electricity network. The decline in gas production contributes to the chronic power cuts experienced by Libya and which last a dozen hours daily.

“We want to have light”chanted the demonstrators in Tobruk in a sign of exasperation.

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The World with AFP