Libya’s political crisis deepened today when the outgoing Parliament picked a new Islamist-backed government, leaving the country with two rival Parliaments and leaders, each with their own armed supporters.
The development comes just days after Islamist militias captured Tripoli’s airport after weeks of fighting, and on the same day Libya’s neighbors — despite calls for an intervention — urged the factions to sort out their differences three years after the ouster of President Moammar Gadhafi.
Outgoing lawmakers picked Omar al-Hasi as their new leader. Hasi had previously tried to become prime minister in April with support from Islamists and independents.
Reuters explains the root of the trouble that led to Monday’s vote:
“[T]he old General National Congress (GNC), where Islamists had a strong voice, has refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of its successor assembly, the House of Representatives, which is dominated by liberals and federalists.
“The GNC reconvened after armed factions from the western city of Misrata forced a rival faction from Zintan out of Tripoli’s main airport on Saturday after a month of fighting that has come to symbolise the country’s deep divisions. The Zintanis and Misratis joined forces in 2011 to topple Gaddafi but have now turned their guns on each other to monopolise power and exploit Libya’s oil resources.
“The Misrata-led brigade, backed by an Islamist militia called Operation Dawn, had called on the GNC to resume work. Many in Misrata feel the new parliament does not represent the majority. The Zintan faction opposed the old assembly.”
Meanwhile, in Cairo, the Egyptian capital, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told officials from neighboring countries that the developments in Libya threatened the entire region.
“The developments in Libya have left an impact we have felt on the security of neighboring countries, with the presence and movement of extremist and terrorist groups whose activists are not only limited to the Libyan territories but also spill over to neighboring countries,” he said.
He added: “All this may push toward different types of interventions in Libyan affairs that we should work to avoid.”
The comments were reported by The Associated Press.
But The New York Times reported Monday that Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes twice over the past week against the Islamist rebels battling for Tripoli. The newspaper quoted four unnamed U.S. officials as saying the strikes proved counterproductive. The Emirates provided the aircraft for the operation, The Times reported, and Egypt the bases.