Libya gets a new government

The Libyan parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), has instructed interim Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni to form a new cabinet. Al-Thinni replaced former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan who was removed by parliament in March 2014. The new government faces a lot of difficulties, primarily with a haltering economy and a lot of political unrest.   

Libya has been hit by an ever deepening political crisis since the government has been unable to control the militia’s that helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. They kept their guns and established independent fiefs under their control. The former Prime Minister, Ali Zeidan, was forced out of office after an oil tanker, laden with rebel sold oil, escaped naval forces on 11 March 2014.    

Demanding more power

The General National Congress has appointed Abdullah Al-Thinni as the prime minister under the condition of forming a government within a week. The government will have to be reconfirmed by parliament every two weeks. A spokesman of the GNC, Omar Hmeidan, stated that parliament would only decide after the formation of a new cabinet whether the caretaker government could stay until the general election later this year.  

The Prime Minister asked parliament for more power and a longer mandate to tackle the political upheaval that rampages through the country. In a letter to parliament Al-Thinni threatened to resign if he did not get what he wanted. “The events that the country is witnessing require quickness in executive decision making. Thus, the interim government will take responsibility only as a government with full authority and without interference from the legislative power” the letter said.

In the confusion that followed the state news agency LANA, as well as Libyan and Arab television stations, reported the government had fallen. The reports stated the government had resigned at a time of deepening crisis. Al-Thinni denies these accusations. A government spokesman stated: “The government is working normally but there was a letter send to the General National Congress saying the government needs more authority to work”.

Political situation

The country has been experiencing nearly daily attacks, particularly in the east, as well as violent opposition from rebels who have blocked vital oil terminals and harbors. Many Libyans blame the government of factional infighting and demand decisive action. Parliament, however, has been helplessly divided between extremist Islamist forces and moderates. The government also faces pressure from the different regions for more autonomy.

Since the summer of 2013, rebels, led by Ibrahim Jathran, began seizing ports in the Libya’s oil rich north-eastern region Crenaica. Jathran claims to fight for independence of the region and tries to finance his struggle by illicitly selling crude oil to rogue buyers. The Libyan central government has been trying to regain control over the region by threatening to use force against anyone who buys the oil.

Al-Thinni scored a success last week when he agreed to a deal with tribal elders from the east to end a nine-month blockade of oil terminals in Zueitina and Hariga, with the opening of other terminals pending further talks. The government agreed to compensate rebel fighters for the oil and managed to steer of demands for regional autonomy. The deal gives perspective to a way out of the political deadlock over Libya’s all important oil facilities.

It remains to be seen if Al-Thinni is up to the task. The prime ministers spokesman, Ahmed Lamin, told reporters AL-Thinni had started work on forming a new government for the GNC to approve. So it appears he will remain in office at least until the general elections scheduled for this year.

Source: Al Arabiya, Al Jazeera, Magharebia, Reuters

Author: Koen Migchelbrink

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