Libyan protesters storm, set fire to parliament in Tobruk


Tripoli, JUL 2 /DNA/ – Protesters stormed Libya’s parliament in the eastern city of Tobruk on Friday and set parts of it ablaze, venting their anger at deteriorating living conditions and months of political deadlock.

Black smoke billowed as men burned tyres and torched cars after one protester had smashed through the compound’s gate with a bulldozer and others attacked the walls with construction tools, local media reported.

The building was empty, as Friday falls on the weekend in Libya.

Libya’s House of Representatives has been based in Tobruk, more than 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) east of the capital Tripoli, since an east-west schism in 2014 that came three years after a mass popular revolution toppled dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

A separate legislature, formally known as the High Council of State, is based in Tripoli as the oil-rich North African country remains divided between rival administrations vying for control.

Libya, sweltering in summer heat, has endured days of power cuts — a situation worsened by the blockade of key oil facilities amid the entrenched political rivalries.

“We want the lights to work,” chanted protesters, some of whom were brandishing the green flags of the Kadhafi regime.

The parliament condemned the “acts of vandalism and the burning” of its headquarters.

The interim prime minister of the Tripoli-based government, Abdulhamid Dbeibah, meanwhile voiced support for the protesters’ concerns in a Twitter message.

– Political stalemate –

The two governments have been vying for power in Libya for months: the one based in Tripoli, led by Dbeibah, and another headed by former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, appointed by the parliament and supported by eastern-based strongman Khalifa Haftar.

Presidential and parliamentary elections, originally set for last December, were meant to cap a UN-led peace process following the end of the last major round of violence in 2020.

But the vote was never held due to several contentious candidacies and deep disagreements over the polls’ legal basis between the rival power centres.

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 could stand in a presidential vote, said the UN’s top Libya envoy Stephanie Williams.