New PM for Libya; country still in deadlock

On 5 May the head of Libya's parliament has confirmed that businessman Ahmed Maiteeq will be the country's new prime minister. Ahmed Maiteeq is Libya's fifth prime minister to be appointed in the past two and a half years. Maiteeq tried hard to win over sceptics by stressing his business credentials and his non-party background.

The General National Congress elected Maiteeq in a televised vote on 4 May, but First Deputy Speaker Ezzedin al-Awami initially argued the businessman had failed to obtain the necessary quorum and declared the vote invalid. The prime minister's post became vacant after Abdullah al-Thinni resigned last month citing an attack by gunmen on his family just a month into his term as head of the government.

Chaotic election

The vote for a new Prime Minister was initially scheduled on 29 April, but gunmen stormed Libya's parliament and opened fire, forcing lawmakers to abandon the vote. Parliament spokesman Omar Hmeidan said several people were wounded in the shooting by the gunmen, who were linked to one of the defeated candidates for prime minister. Lawmakers fled from the building. The incident ended quickly but the vote was postponed until the week after.

When the vote took place on Sunday 4 May, Mr Maiteeq managed to obtain only 121 votes in the 185-seat chamber - just exceeding the required 120 votes. Furthermore, some deputies claimed the vote was illegal, arguing that it continued after Mr Amawi had declared the session was over. First Deputy Speaker al-Awani then declared the vote invalid, but a day later the head of the General National Congress Nuri Abu Sahmein - who was absent on Sunday - named Mr Maiteeq as the new Prime Minister. Sahmain wields quasi-presidential powers.

Mr Maiteeq will have two weeks to propose a cabinet, which will need to be approved by the Congress. He said that he wanted to engage all political forces in forming a "crisis government" in Libya and devolving some powers to regions in the oil-producing state. Members of the special body tasked to draft a new constitution for Libya and members of the General National Congress gather during the body's first meeting in Bayda on 21 April 2014.

No reopening yet of rebel-held ports
The rebels that are occupying major oil ports in eastern Libya said they would not deal with the new Prime Minister. This stance could threaten efforts to reopen terminals in the OPEC producer.

Maiteeq’s predecessor Abdullah al-Thinni had reached an agreement with the rebels to reopen four of the ports, though only the smaller ones, Hariga and Zueitina, have been handed over to government forces. Both sides had agreed to hold further talks over the larger Ras Lanuf and Es Sider exports terminals, but rebels refure to deal with Maiteeq who, in their views, came to power illegally.  

The government has been unable to control armed groups and Islamists who helped oust Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 but refuse to disarm and have carved out regional fiefdoms. Militias have repeatedly attacked the interim General National Congress (GNC) to make political or financial demands.

Eroded public finances
The rebels actions have cut oil output to 250,000 barrels a day, down from 1.4 million barrels per day in the summer, eroding public finances which are almost entirely dependent on crude. Parliament has failed to approve a budget for this year.

Libya will probably post a budget deficit of 10 billion Libyan dinars ( billion). Total expenditures will be 59 billion dinars, mainly for public salaries and subsidies. It is not clear how the deficit would be funded. The central bank had foreign reserves worth 5 billion at the end of February. Oil exports are also the only source of funding for annual imports of billion.

Kidnapped diplomats
Meanwhile, the kidnapped diplomats of Jordan and Tunesia are still held by rebels. On 20 April the Tunisian diplomat pleaded with his government to negotiate with his Islamist captors, according to a video released by an Islamist group. Libyan Islamists seized two Tunisian diplomats to demand the release of fellow militants jailed in Tunisia for attacking security forces there in 2011. 

On 15 April gunmen kidnapped Jordan's ambassador Fawaz al-Itan to Libya, demanding an Islamist militant Mohamed Dersi be released from a Jordanian jail in exchange for the diplomat's freedom. On 28 April Jordan agreed to handover a Libyan Islamist to secure the release of its ambassador, said Libya's state news agency LANA. It seems that he has not been released yet.

By Merel Berkelmans

Sources: BBC, Reuters I, Reuters II, Al, Reuters III, Al Jazeera

Photo: PressTV

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