Protesters disrupt Libyan parliament vote on cabinet


PROTESTERS STORMED the chamber of Libya’s parliament yesterday, preventing MPs from taking their seats to vote on whether to approve a new cabinet.

The protest, involving 100 unarmed men from Zawiya, 50km west of Tripoli, came amid growing signs of chaos and violence across the country.

The men said they objected to the failure to include among 29 cabinet nominees a minister from their city, which was one of the first to rise against Muammar Gadafy’s regime in last year’s Arab spring revolution.

They agreed to clear the chamber peacefully, but the chances of Libya’s parliament agreeing a cabinet soon were dealt a further blow hours later when prime minister Mustafa Abushagur announced MPs had informally rejected 13 of his nominees.

The procedure to pick the cabinet of the first freely elected parliament in more than 40 years has already proved controversial because members from the National Forces Alliance, the largest party in congress, have been excluded. Eyebrows have been raised across the political spectrum because many of the nominees for the cabinet are unknown to most Libyans.

The delay leaves Libya without firm government nearly three months after the parliamentary elections and with violence breaking out in several flashpoint towns.

Forces of a pro-government militia alliance, the National Shield, clashed overnight with units in Bani Walid, a former pro-Gadafy town southeast of Tripoli. It was surrounded by tanks and artillery after the group was told to hand over men accused of the killing of a Misrata revolutionary.

In Benghazi, police and army units say they are facing regular guerrilla attacks by the Islamist militia Ansar al-Sharia, blamed by many for last month’s killing of US ambassador Chris Stevens.

A specially formed army unit, the National Mobile Force, has begun operations against suspected Ansar al-Sharia hideouts, but said its task was complicated because the militia were ejected from their base on September 21st by anti-militia protesters.

Visits by trade delegations have been scrapped and Benghazi, which is Libya’s second city, is almost empty of foreigners.

Power cuts are common and Tripoli residents have taken to dumping their uncollected refuse in great mounds in the ruins of Gadafy’s former home at Bab al-Aziziya. – (Guardian service)