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.
TEXT SIZE - +
— 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

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

36 people are confirmed dead, but some 266 remain trapped on board More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid