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Libya looks to parliamentary poll for ending chaos from NATO operation three years ago

June 25, 2014, 15:57 UTC+3 By Itar-Tass correspondent Dmitry Tarasov ¶ ¶ CAIRO
By ITAR-TASS correspondent Dmitry Tarasov
1 pages in this article
Lybian rebels (archive)

Lybian rebels (archive)

©  EPA/MANU BRABO

CAIRO, June 25. /ITAR-TASS/. Libya holds a parliamentary election on Wednesday, the second since 2012. Citizens are electing deputies to the House of Representatives, successor to the General National Congress, a temporary legislative authority whose activity is largely blamed for deep political crisis across the nation.

Future parliamentarians face the task of holding a referendum on a new constitution, still the task facing the Constitutional Assembly elected in February, and a presidential election aimed at ending the transition period.

It began after the toppling and cruel October 2011 killing of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, ruling the country for four decades, and after the "victory" of the so-called Revolution of February 17.

Almost three years have passed, but despite repeated loud statements about "achieving the goals of the revolution", the country's new leaders have failed to build a full-fledged state governed by law, achieving order and a decent social life for rank-and-file Libyans.

Headline declarations of pro-Western politicians about the need to build “a democratic, united and freedom-loving” state “for all” have had no effect on dozens of armed militia groups installing their own control and order.

The country, a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is still seeing re-division of spheres of influence among former insurgents. Separatist moods have become visibly stronger, principally in the country’s eastern region of Cyrenaica.

Hundreds of large and small groups of former revolutionaries, mushrooming during the civil war and winning only due to NATO’s military machine pounding military facilities and civilians, found themselves left to their own devices and began imposing their rule on sub-controlled territories.

Huge weapons arsenals fell into the hands of former militias, embracing radical Islamists and foreign mercenaries among them. They have no intention of surrendering weapons to the centre and instead, often use them against all those whom they reject.

Armed clashes erupt on a near-daily basis between groups that once fought side-by-side against Gaddafi, now fighting each other in bidding for the prize. Abductions, killings, terrorist acts, armed clashes of warring factions have become a routine practice in "liberated" Libya.

Deputies from the General National Congress (GNC), split in differences between the GNC’s dominant National Forces Alliance faction and the Muslim Brotherhood-connected Justice and Development Party, have failed in two years to agree on ending the transition period.

It is worth noting that parliamentarians’ term of office expired early in February, but because of a delayed election of the Constitutional Commission, it was extended in December by legislators themselves, who also corrected the "road map’s" timeframe.

Under the former schedule, they should have finished drafting the Constitution and have held a referendum on it to fix the date of the parliamentary election by the beginning of February. Delays with ending the transition period for very different reasons have triggered large-scale protests in different corners of the country.

In May, Libya found itself on the brink of a new civil war after one of the former leaders of the movement to dethrone Gaddafi, retired Major General Khalifa Haftar, announced the start of Operation Dignity, aimed to liquidate armed groups of radical Islamists. Activity of the out-of-favour military triggered an extremely negative reaction by pro-Islamic representatives of the General National Congress, who accused Hafar’s allies of an attempted coup.

A domestic crisis deepened when, for almost a month from May to June, the Libyan people lived in a duality of state power.

On May 5, GNC deputies approved the candidacy of Ahmed Maiteeq, a businessman from Misratah enjoying support of the Muslim Brotherhood, as prime minister. But he failed to secure the necessary quorum and was appointed to the post in a decree of GNC Speaker Nuri Abu Samhain. Three weeks later, his Cabinet received a vote of confidence from parliamentarians despite the absence of a quorum.

The Cabinet's new line-up was not recognised by the interim government of Prime Minister Abdullah Abdurahman an-Thani. He repeatedly stated he would continue discharging his functions and would contest in court the legitimacy of Maiteeq’s appointment. On June 9, the Constitutional Court of Libya ruled the election of Prime Minister Maiteeq as illegitimate.

Hopes are pinned on Wednesday's election defusing tension. A total of 1,714 contenders, including 152 women, contest 200 seats in the House of Representatives, 32 of which are reserved for women. They all run on single-mandate (individual) lists under election law in effect banning nomination on party lists.

A total of 1,600 polling stations opened in 22 election constituencies. Out of 6.1 million Libyans, 3.4 are eligible voters, and 1.5 million have registered for the vote. Preliminary results of the voting will be announced by June 27, while final results will be announced by the Election Commission in mid-July.

Despite chaos, the election will be held throughout the whole country, says the Election Commission. A total of 13,000 military and law enforcement officers will seek to ensure order. Haftar promised a lull in combat operations on Wednesday.

It is still unclear whether the election will help ease tension. Some local observers believe choosing a permanent legislature will help normalize all spheres of life. Others fear it may turn into a kind of a GNC with the prefix "interim" and once again plunge the country into political squabbling which, as recent years have proved, leads into armed chaos.

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