Libya’s Prime Minster, Ali Zeidan, was ousted by parliament, the General National Congress, after a vote of no confidence on Tuesday 11 March. Zeidan was blamed for letting an oil tanker, laden with rebel sold oil, escape naval forces. Zeidan will be temporarily replaced by Defence Minister Abdallah al-Thinni.
Prime Minister Zeidan had been independently elected to the General National Congress, and was made prime minster with the help of the liberals. He blamed the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamists, of trying to make him fail by blocking much needed reforms.
The ousting of Prime Minister Zeidan was prompted by a crisis this week when militia controlling the eastern port of Al-Sidra, a major oil terminal, defied the government’s authority by illicitly selling crude oil. Zeidan has repeatedly been criticized for his failure to govern the myriad of former rebel militias, who control the north-eastern region of Crenaica. Libyan lawmaker Suad Gannur said: “The situation in the country has become unacceptable. Even those MPs who used to support the prime minister no longer have any alternative”.
The Rebels and the oil
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.
The docked tanker named The Morning Glory and sailing under a North Korean flag, led to a stand-off between the Libyan navy and government-aligned militias versus the rebels. The government repeatedly stated it would not let the ship set sail. Libya’s culture minister said: "It's final and decisive. Any attempt (by the tanker) to move, it will be turned into scrap".
Only last Monday 10 March, Zeidan said that navy forces had halted the tanker and were escorting it to a government-controlled port in western Libya. But rebel leader Jathran defied the government by going on television while standing on a ship, insisting his forces still controlled the tanker. In the early hours of 11 March the tanker escaped the Libyan navy and set sail with at least 234,000 barrels of Libyan crude oil sold bypassing the central government. Opponents thus believed Prime Minster Zeidan lost control and demanded his resignation.
After the tanker reached international waters, Libyan lawmakers removed Al Zeitan from power. Independent lawmaker Al-Sharif al-Wafi said: "The government has been weakened for a time and we need a new personality", he added a new prime minister will be elected by deputies within two weeks.
Western powers fear Libya could break apart. The government is struggling to control the armed militias and tribesmen who helped oust dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, but want to grab power and oil revenues. The political stability of Libya is deteriorating, observers say there is no obvious successor who can unite the country’s rivaling parties.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday 12 march, the Libyan prosecutor general, Abdel-Qader Radwan, has banned Zeidan from travelling abroad because he faces an investigation over alleged financial irregularities. Zeidan, however, has already left for Europe.
author: Koen Migchelbrink