News / Middle East

Polarization, Security Issues Could Spark Crisis in Libya

A man shouts during a demonstration against what the protesters said was the decision of the National Congress to extend the period of their stay in power, in Benghazi December 27, 2013.
A man shouts during a demonstration against what the protesters said was the decision of the National Congress to extend the period of their stay in power, in Benghazi December 27, 2013.
Deteriorating security and rising political polarization in Libya has left some analysts worrying that Libya may be on the verge of breakdown.  Their sense of pending crisis only worsened this week when more than a third of Libya’s fractious parliamentarians tabled a motion of no confidence in the country’s beleaguered Prime Minister Ali Zeidan.
 
The move against Zeidan, a former human rights lawyer, came just days after Libya’s national congress voted on December 23 to extend its own mandate for another 12 months, which sparked anger among democracy activists, who argue the extension is not legitimate and sets a dangerous precedent. Demonstrators in Tripoli and Benghazi took to the streets wielding brooms and calling for congress to be swept out of office.
 
Zeidan and the Islamist-dominated General National Congress (GNC) have been locked in a power struggle since militias managed briefly to abduct the prime minister in October. Zeidan accused political foes inside the GNC of encouraging the kidnapping. Analysts say neither the GNC nor Zeidan command much public confidence among Libyans, who are frustrated by the lack of change.
 
“Uncertainty regarding the democratization process is likely to further frustrate the public,” according to Karim Mezran, senior fellow with the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the U.S.-based think tank the Atlantic Council.
 
The tabling of the no-confidence motion marks an escalation in a war of words between lawmakers and Zeidan, and analysts say it could lead to a final political showdown. 
 
A vote on the motion, which calls for the establishment of a “crisis government,” is set for January 5.
 
This is not the first time a group of lawmakers have sought to oust Zeidan. Previous efforts to bring down the government faltered because the 200-strong GNC failed to secure sufficient numbers to meet the 120-member quorum required for approving the motion.
 
But a quorum may be within reach this weekend.  The Islamists argue the time has come for a new government and have now been joined by centrists, led by Mahmoud Jibril, calling for a national salvation administration as a possible way to break a political impasse that has added to Libya’s dangerous drift and lawlessness. Jibril served as an interim Prime Minister for the rebels for seven and a half months during the uprising that toppled Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
 
Zeidan’s authority has been weakened in large part by his failure to engineer an end to a months-long blockade by militias of vital eastern oil terminals. The blockade has stifled oil production, the main source of government revenue, which has fallen to ten percent of capacity.
 
On January 1, labor minister Mohamed Swalin told a news conference that the blockade is undermining Libya’s ability to pay public salaries. He warned the strikes are leading Libya into a “dark tunnel.”
 
Blockade leader Ibrahim al-Jathran, who once oversaw the Petroleum Facilities Guard assigned to defend the facilities his supporters now control, refuses to reopen the key oil-exporting ports until the Tripoli government recognizes eastern Libya, known by federalists as Cyrenaica, as a semi-autonomous region.
 
In a speech a week ago, centrist National Forces Alliance chief Jibril warned that lawlessness, the refusal of revolutionary militias to disband and a weak government in Libya have created an environment ripe for “foreign conspiracies and foreign intelligence agencies.”
 
“Arab and Western states [are] conspiring against the future and unity of Libya,” Jibril said.
 
His outline for a national salvation government to replace Zeidan’s administration received support from the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party, the largest force in the GNC.
 
The English-language Libya Herald newspaper says that “positive overtures by the Justice and Construction party” could indicate that the GNC’s two largest parties may be poised to reach agreement on the next step forward—which may include sacrificing the Zeidan government as a means to save the “equally unpopular GNC.”
 
The last time Jibril’s NFA and the Muslim Brotherhood acted in concert was to remove Zeidan’s predecessor, Mustafa Abushugar, who served as Prime Minister for only a handful of days in 2012.
 
It isn’t clear, however, whether removing Zeidan will lead to the rapid change ordinary Libyans say they want. GNC critics argue that lawmakers are just as much to blame for the country’s drift.  They point to the legislature’s failure to implement a “transitional roadmap” agreed upon by the rebels and their leaders after the fall of Gadhafi.
 
That roadmap set a timetable for drafting a new constitution and staging elections for both a new parliament and head of state. The timetable hasn’t been met; hence the GNC’s decision to extend its mandate by a year.
 
But Libyan commentator Mohamed Eljarh, a blogger for Foreign Policy magazine, warns, “prolonging the lifetime of a deeply polarized GNC mired in political infighting and hobbled by narrow-minded political interests is, however, likely to make matters worse.” The country, he says, needs “better decision-making and less political polarization.”

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid