Protesters storm Libya’s eastern parliament building

Libya has been divided between warring factions since 2014, following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

The country’s interim prime minister, Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, leader of the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU), is based in Tripoli, western Libya. The parliament building in Tobruk, in the east of the country, is the seat of a rival government led by Prime Minister Fathy Bashag.

Libyan media, including LANA, the internationally recognized government’s official news agency, and Almarsad, one of the main news outlets, reported that protesters entered the Tobruk building on Friday.

Several cities, including Tripoli, have witnessed protests against deteriorating living conditions and calls for the dissolution of political bodies, according to reports.

Videos posted on social media showed protesters inside the parliament building shouting « long live Libya ». Other videos showed people collecting trash and tires in front of the building and setting them on fire. The building was empty when protesters stormed it.

Dbeibeh said in a Twitter post that he supported protesters’ demands across the country.

« All [political] bodies have to go, including the government, and there is no way to do that except through elections,” Dbeibeh said, referring to Bashag’s government.

« The parties that obstruct the elections are known to the Libyan people and the same ones that obstructed budgets and shut down oil, which contributed to exacerbating the living crisis, » he added.

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Dbeibeh was appointed following UN-brokered talks in Geneva last year. He was tasked with leading the transitional government to elections, but that process ended in disarray late last year due to disputes over electoral rules, including the legitimacy of his own candidacy. According to his government, he survived an assassination attempt earlier this year.

After the election was postponed in December, Libya’s eastern parliament appointed Bashaga as leader of the country.

Dbeibah does not recognize Bashaga’s premiership and Bashaga accuses Dbeibah of losing his mandate following the postponement of the vote.

The GNU Interior Ministry issued a statement on Friday saying that all Libyans have the right to protest as long as they are peaceful protests and « in accordance with the laws ».

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