News / Middle East

Libya's Political Crisis Heats Up

Libyan militias blockade the Justice Ministry in Tripoli April 30 demanding the ouster of officials linked to the late Moammar Gadhafi.
Libyan militias blockade the Justice Ministry in Tripoli April 30 demanding the ouster of officials linked to the late Moammar Gadhafi.
Militiamen besieging key Libyan ministries say they won’t release their chokehold on the government of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan until it fires anyone who worked for the regime of the late Moammar Gadhafi.
 
If the militias succeed in forcing the General National Congress (GNC) to pass a law barring Gaddafi-era officials from being lawmakers or working for the government, Libya could be plunged into an even deeper crisis with no clear guidelines on how to proceed.
 
The exclusion law is scheduled for a vote on Sunday. If approved and enforced, it would require many General National Council members to quit, including the council president, Mohamed Magarief.  It also would require the resignation of Prime Minister Zeidan, who worked for several years Gadhafi’s diplomatic service, as well as several cabinet ministers.
 
New elections would have to be called, but the GNC could well be left without a quorum, throwing into doubt the legality any of its subsequent decisions.
 
Warnings of chaos
 
Politicians warned that approval of the new law could throw the country into chaos. But militiamen blockading the foreign ministry on Thursday dismissed those fears.
 
Allowing regime holdovers to stay in the government or legislature would be an insult to the “martyrs” of the rebellion that ousted Gadhafi 18 months ago, the militiamen say,
 
“We will not leave until the law is passed,” militiaman Emad Zigiham said Thursday. “There are other competent people around to replace the government. We are doing this for Libya’s good.”
 
“We’re not going to throw them out of the country,” said another militiaman, dressed half in military fatigues, half in civilian clothing. “They can work and earn a living, but they must not be in the ministries or in the government or congress.”
 
The militiamen acknowledged that many former officials had participated in the uprising against Gaddafi, but say their time is now over.
 
The possibility of a confrontation over the issue became more acute late Thursday when the deputy president of the GNC, Jumaa Ateega, declared that the legislature and the government were voted in by the people and held national responsibility. He was accompanied by Zeidan and the leaders of the main political parties.
 
Government signals no compromises
 
Government sources told VOA that the prime minister had no intention of making a deal with the militias and that the hope was that Libyans would rally behind the government on Friday.
 
Under the proposed new law, former Gadhafi regime officials would be banned from public office for 10 years. If passed, the likelihood is that exclusion law would most benefit the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which has been pushing hard for approval of the measure.
 
In March militiamen stormed the GNC twice and the prime minister’s office once in bid to coerce approval of the law.
 
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
x
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan tried to rally support after militiamen surrounded the Foreign Ministry in Tripoli.
The militia blockades at the Foreign and Justice ministries have been orchestrated by the group known as the Higher Council of the Revolutionaries. They began earlier this week when gunmen blocked the entrances and roads around the ministries using pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns.
 
Other militiamen forced out the police and formed a security cordon around a national television station.  
 
Since Tuesday, militiamen from other towns, including from the eastern city of Benghazi, have joined. On Thursday, trucks from the Libyan Shield Force, a grouping of militias that’s supposed to take its orders from the Defense Ministry, showed up outside the Foreign Ministry and joined the blockade.
 
The militiamen outside the Foreign Ministry are disciplined and well organized and say they are acting on orders from the Higher Council of Revolutionaries. They warn of a “second revolution”, if their demands are ignored.
 
Some Libyan commentators critical of the militia action argued that the sieges and threats from armed gunmen amounted to a shadow coup.
 
A shadow coup?
 
“Libya is now in grave danger and it is not clear what’s going to happen. Unless we gain some control, Libya will turn into a Somalia,” warned politician and journalist Abdurrahman Shater. “We are going to face a future of warlordism and no law and order for several years, if this continues.”
 
But so far, the general populace has not rallied behind Zeidan. On Tuesday, less than a hundred people turned out for a rally in Tripoli to show support. And on Thursday, only about 200 showed up at a rally against the militiamen.
 
As the struggling country lurches from crisis to crisis some Libyan politicians are quietly discussing the idea of naming a “Father of the Nation” figurehead leader to help unite Libyans and provide a measure of national stability.
 
The man being mentioned as having the most potential to fill that role is a frail 80-year-old who has spent more years in jail as a political prisoner than South Africa’s Nelson Mandela -- Ahmed Al-Zubair al-Senussi, the longest-serving Gaddafi-era political prisoner. He has the advantage for some of being a distant relative of King Idris, the monarch deposed in the 1969 coup led by Gaddafi.
 
But according to Libya expert Ellen Lust at Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, just the thought of choosing a “Father of the Nation" figure reflects the gravity of the political crisis. 
 
 “I can see why they might want to do it, and no doubt it reflects their frustrations, but it has some very serious potential downsides, including not encouraging Libyans to shake off a collective mindset of needing a strong leader,” said Lust. “They need instead to be building a democracy.”

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs