Libya in Chaos as New Parliament Deemed Unconstitutional



Chaos still prevails in Libya as the Supreme Court declared the newly elected parliament unconstitutional, a move that will fuel backlash in the oil rich country in northern Africa. After gun men stormed the El Sharara oil field, the biggest in the south of Libya and shut down production, the assembly rejected the internationally recognized parliament.

Three years after Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown, rivalry between governments that want to control Libya’s vast energy reserves is escalating to the point where armed groups are taking sides. Neighbouring African countries and powers in the West fear that the situation will spiral down to a full-blown civil war with former rebels who ousted Gaddafi and return Libya to the chaotic state it  faced years ago.

The internationally recognized government located in a rump state in the east leaves the western half controlled by fighters belonging to Operation Dawn, a group that recently seized the capital Tripoli in August. The televised decision is likely to widen the gap and thwart mediation efforts by the UN. After a committee in the Supreme Court invalidated the election of the House of Representatives claiming that the elected law violated the provisional constitution, members of the government have fled to the eastern city of Tobruk. The parliament of federalists and liberals elected in June earlier upset hard-core Islamists with strong ties to Operation Dawn. The Supreme Court in Tripoli reinstated the General National Congress (GNC), the previous parliament with strong Islamic ties after the decision deposing the former was announced on Thursday.

Fighters from the Operation Dawn who seized control of state bodies come mainly from Misrata, a western city in Libya. Their actions are questioning the court’s ability to rule independently. In the televised speech that brought the GNC to power with the help of Operation Dawn, Nouri Abusahmain, GNC head announced that this move provided the embattled nation a chance for a dialogue to end the crisis. Abusahmain, whose speech was celebrated and cheered by hundreds called for a dialogue that serves national reconciliation, stability and development.

The ruling on the other hand, was not recognized by the exiled in Tobruk, and Farraj Hashem, the assembly’s spokesman was quoted as saying, “the ruling was made under the threat of guns.” Western countries and the Arabs have recognized the Tobruk assembly as the official one, publicly boycotting the rival prime minister Omar al-Hassi. The UN who is now scrutinizing the ruling in Libya issued a statement to the effect of highlighting the “urgent need for all parties to forge consensus on political arrangements.”

The reasons to shut down production in Libya may be justified politically, although the financial losses exerted on the country will only add to their existing misery. Working conditions in Tripoli have not improved and repeated attacks in the poverty-stricken country, especially Benghazi city has only exacerbated separate conflicts between the government and Islamists. Swifter action must be called for from the international community to limit the damage in northern Africa and political stability must be restored independent of any vested interests.

By Rathan Paul Harshavardan.


Photo by Ben Sutherland – Flickr License