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Libyan protesters storm parliament building in Tobruk

#Libyan #protesters #storm #parliament #building #Tobruk

Demonstrators stormed the Libyan parliament building in the eastern city of Tobruk on Friday, demonstrating against deteriorating living conditions and the political deadlock, Libyan media reported.

Several TV channels said protesters managed to get inside the building and committed vandalism, while media showed images of thick columns of black smoke billowing from its surroundings as angry young protesters burned tires.

Other media reports said part of the building burned down.

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 kilometers (miles) east of the capital Tripoli, since an east-west schism in 2014 following the revolt that toppled dictator Moamer Gaddafi three years earlier.

A competing body officially known as the High Council of State is based in Tripoli.

Pictures on Friday showed a protester driving a bulldozer had managed to break through part of a gate, allowing other protesters to enter more easily while officers’ cars were set on fire.

Demonstrators later began using construction equipment to break through the walls of the building.

Others, some with the green flags of the Gaddafi regime, threw office documents into the air.

While recognizing “the right of citizens to demonstrate peacefully”, Parliament condemned “vandalism and arson” of its headquarters.

The Tripoli-based government’s interim prime minister, Abdulhamid Dbeibah, said on Twitter he would add his voice to that of the protesters and called for elections to be held.

Libya has suffered power outages for several days, exacerbated by the blockade of several oil facilities amid political rivalries.

“We want the lights to work,” chanted the protesters.

– Conversations cannot resolve standoff –

Two governments have been vying for power for months: one based in Tripoli, led by Dbeibah, and another led by former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha, appointed by parliament and backed by eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar.

“I call on my fellow parliamentarians and the members of the High Council of State to resign together to respect the will of the Libyan people and safeguard Libya’s stability,” MP Ziad Dgheim was quoted as saying by Libyan broadcaster Al-Ahrar on Friday.

MP Balkheir Alshaab said: “We must recognize our failures and withdraw from the political arena immediately.”

Presidential and parliamentary elections originally scheduled for December last year were to cap a United Nations-led peace process after the end of the last major round of violence in 2020.

However, due to several contested candidatures and deep disagreements between rival power centers in East and West over the legal basis of the elections, the vote never took place.

The United Nations said Thursday talks between rival Libyan institutions aimed at breaking the impasse failed to resolve key differences.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh and High Council of State President Khaled al-Mishri met at the United Nations in Geneva for three days of talks to discuss a draft constitutional framework for elections.

Although some progress has been made, it hasn’t been enough to move towards the elections as the two sides are still at odds over who can run in the presidential election, said the UN’s top Libya envoy, Stephanie Williams, who facilitated the talks .

– “Escalates quickly” –

The prospect of elections seems more distant than ever since the HoR, elected in 2014, appointed Bashagha and argued that Dbeibah’s mandate had expired.

After Bashagha failed to invade Tripoli in May in an armed clash, the rival government took office further east in Sirte, Gaddafi’s hometown.

In recent weeks, repeated skirmishes between armed groups have erupted in Tripoli, raising fears of a return to full-scale conflict.

Protests took place in other Libyan cities on Friday, including Tripoli, where protesters held pictures of Dbeibah and Bashagha crossed out.

“People’s protests have erupted across Libya out of desperation over a collapsing quality of life, the entire political class that manufactured it and the UN that has lent it to them for delivering promised changes,” tweeted analyst Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign relations

“Things are escalating quickly and the response will define Libya’s summer,” he added.

Libya’s National Oil Corporation said on Monday a blockade of oil facilities in the central coastal region of Sirte meant it could declare force majeure, a measure freeing it from contractual obligations due to circumstances beyond its control.

In April, a blockade of two major oil export terminals and several oil fields began.

East-based strongman Haftar’s forces control major oil facilities.

A drop in gas production contributed to chronic power outages that can last about 12 hours a day.

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#Libyan #protesters #storm #parliament #building #Tobruk

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