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Protesters storm Libya’s parliament building amid political deadlock, power cuts

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Protesters stormed Libya’s parliament building in the eastern city of Tobruk on Friday, demonstrating deteriorating living conditions and political deadlock, Libyan media reported.

Several television channels said protesters had managed to break into the building and commit vandalism, while media showed images of thick columns of black smoke billowing from the perimeter as angry young protesters burned tires.

Other media reports said part of the building had burned down.

The parliament building was empty when Friday falls on the weekend in Libya.

The Libyan parliament, or House of Representatives, is located in Tobruk, hundreds of kilometers (miles) east of the capital Tripoli, since an east-west schism in 2014 following the uprising that toppled dictator Moamer Gaddafi three years earlier.

A rival body, formally known as the Supreme Council of State, is based in Tripoli.

Footage from Friday showed that a protester driving a bulldozer had managed to break part of a gate, making it easier for other protesters to enter, while officials’ cars were set on fire.

Other protesters, some waving the green flags of the Gaddafi regime, threw office documents into the air.

Libya has endured several days of power cuts, exacerbated by the blockade of several oil facilities amid political rivalry.

“We want the lights to work,” protesters chanted.

Lawmaker Balkheir Alshaab told Libyan broadcaster Al-Ahrar: “We must recognize our failure and immediately withdraw from the political scene.”

Conversations don’t solve the stalemate

Presidential and parliamentary elections, originally scheduled for December last year, were intended to conclude a UN-led peace process after the end of the last major round of violence in 2020.

But the vote never took place due to several contentious candidatures and deep disagreements over the legal basis of the polls between rival centers of power in the east and west.

>> The reasons behind the delays in Libya’s ‘impossible’ presidential elections

The United Nations said on Thursday that talks between rival Libyan institutions to break the deadlock had failed to resolve key disagreements.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh and Supreme Council President Khaled al-Mishri met at the UN in Geneva for three days of talks to discuss a draft constitutional framework for elections.

While some progress was made, it was not enough to make progress towards elections as the two parties still disagree over who can run for president in the presidential election, said Stephanie Williams, Libya’s top envoy for the UN, which facilitated the talks.

The prospect of elections seems as distant as ever since the HoR, elected in 2014, appointed a rival government to replace interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, arguing that his mandate has expired.

In recent weeks there have been repeated clashes between armed groups in Tripoli, raising fears of a return to full-scale conflict.

Libyan National Oil Corporation said Monday that a blockade of oil installations in Sirte’s central coastal area meant it could declare force majeure, a measure freeing it from contractual obligations arising from circumstances beyond its control.

A blockade of two major oil export terminals and several oil fields began in April after the eastern parliament appointed former interior minister Fathi Bashagha prime minister.


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