Libyan Militias Demand for Parliament to Quit Ahead of Vote
While Libyans are preparing to vote on Thursday for a panel that will draft a new constitution, the country’s powerful militias have extended their deadline until Friday demanding that the interim parliament step down or face arrest. Prime Minister Ali Zeidan announced that a “compromise” had been reached with the militias because “wisdom had prevailed” after discussions with representatives from the militias, the assembly and the United Nations. The militias that are comprised of former rebels Zintan in the western part of the country had given the General National Congress (GNC), the country’s highest political authority, a late Tuesday deadline to quit, threatening to detain any lawmakers who failed to comply.
One of the rebel commanders accused the parliament of “seizing power”, saying that it was trying to extend its mandate for as long as possible. The mandate of the parliament was to due to expire this month but a motion was passed to extend it by another year. However, many Libyans were increasingly upset that parliament, which is widely seen as a failed institution, should hold on to power for yet another year. Yielding to pressure in the wake of street protests, the GNC agreed on Sunday to hold early polls to elect new transitional authorities rather than wait for the constitution to be finalised.
While the Thursday’s vote marks the latest milestone in the chaotic transition in the wake of the 2011 overthrow of the country’s former strongman Gaddafi, it has so far generated little enthusiasm among Libyans who are frustrated by the government’s inability to impose order on the rebel groups that helped depose him. In the more than two years since Gaddafi’s demise, former rebel brigades – many of whom were armed with heavy weapons plundered from Gaddafi’s arsenals – have established fiefdom across the expansive country, with many refusing government demands to disarm or to join the armed forces.