Hundreds of protesters gathered in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Friday to oppose the decision of the country’s lawmakers to pass a vote of no confidence in the transitional government.
The motion, passed on Tuesday, represents a challenge in elections slated for December and hampers efforts to unite the oil-rich North African nation after a decade of unrest.
Protesters in a central square in Tripoli waved Libyan flags, chanting that the decision did not represent them and should be overturned. They called for the resignation of members of the eastern-based House of Representatives.
Libya’s current transitional government replaced two rival administrations – one based in the east of the country and the other in the west – which had ruled Libya for years. Its main objective has been to prepare the country for elections by December 24. But politicians failed to finalize election laws dictating how the vote will be conducted.
Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
In the process, the nation was divided between a government in the east, supported by Commander Khalifa Haftar, and a UN-backed administration in the capital Tripoli. Each side also had the support of different regional powers.
The elections were seen by many as a step forward in ending the country’s divisions. But the ruling by the eastern-based House of Representatives shows tensions persist.
On Wednesday, Haftar announced he was suspending his role as leader of his so-called Libyan army for the next three months, indicating that he may be considering running in the presidential elections in December.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has vowed that his government will not step down before handing over power to elected officials. The House of Representatives said, following its ruling, that the current government can act as an interim administration, but gave no deadline for the appointment of another government before the elections at the end of this year.
Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata, was appointed earlier this year to head the executive branch of an interim government that also includes a three-member Presidential Council chaired by Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the east of the country.
International pressure is also mounting ahead of the December deadline for Libyans to go to the polls.
On Friday, the foreign ministers of France, Germany and Italy met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss Libya and reaffirm their commitment to vote on the due date, according to a UN press release. Menfi announced in a speech to the assembly that the government would hold an international conference next month to try to keep the political process on track, without providing further details. France has announced that it will hold a conference on Libya in November regarding the elections.