Protests have erupted across Libya in recent days; House of Representatives in eastern city of Tobruk set on fire Hundreds of protesters in the capital Tripoli have been gathering in the city center on Friday to denounce armed militias and raise prices for basic goods.
The protests come as Libya’s numerous political factions remain divided over the constitutional framework and electoral roadmap, as negotiations in Cairo and Geneva between representatives of the UN-backed Tripoli High Council of State and Tobruk’s House of Representatives have closed. Can’t reach an agreement.
Uncertainty is heightened by the ongoing oil blockade launched by factions seeking to overthrow the internationally recognized government in Tripoli and create a rival government led by former interior minister Fati Basaga, based in Sirte instead.
“There are many reasons why the protesters decided to take to the streets in anger. But they can be summed up simply as politicians failing to reach a political deal and instead tending to fight each other for power at the expense of ordinary citizens,” said Aha, a Libyan academic and author Med Mayuf told Al Jazeera.
“This failure has naturally led to a general deterioration of living conditions, even affecting citizens who have no interest in politics.”
Libyan journalist Mustafa Feturi agreed, insisting that “the protests are totally against the current status quo, including both governments; [interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid] Dbeibah is in Tripoli and Bashagha is in Sirte. “
“The main reasons for the protests are the deterioration of living conditions in Libya, especially the ongoing power outages, lack of employment opportunities and the lack of any agreement on elections,” Feturi told Al Jazeera.
However, Yusuf Bakhbakhi, a Libyan academic based in Tripoli, said the reasons for the protests varied by region.
“Frustration and growing complaints about issues related to unemployment in Tripoli sparked protests [there] against the Dbeibah government,” he said.
“In Tobruk the cause is more political and more to do with existential mercenary and House politics that hinder the holding of elections.”
‘Protests could escalate’
Libya has been plagued by instability and civil war since the fall of longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
In 2021, the UN-backed national dialogue leads to form a new government Elections will be held in December of the same year, according to Dbeibah. However, the election was postponed indefinitely, leading to controversy over the legitimacy of Debeba’s government.
In February 2022, Tobruk’s House of Representatives — backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar, which laid siege to the capital Tripoli during 2019 and was subsequently repelled by Turkey’s military intervention — controversially appointed Basaga for the Prime Minister and tasked him with forming a government.
However, Bashagha tried to thwart stubborn resistance from armed militias allied with Dbeibah Entering Tripoli The appointment of his government in May led to his subsequent announcement that he would carry out his duties in the city of Sirte.
Since then, supporters of the Basaga government have partly shut down oil facilities In the east, to force the Dbeibah government to step down.Basaga told Reuters that oil blockade “may be over if central bank funds parliament-approved budget” [for his government]”.
The oil blockade has exacerbated power outages across Libya, one of the main grievances of protesters who have recently taken to the streets.
Yusuf Bakhbakhi, a Libyan academic based in Tripoli, told Al Jazeera, “The power outages lasted for hours during the day and there were long queues at gas stations. Apart from rising inflation and rising prices.”
However, Bakhbakhi said the protests have not yet reached a point where they could force change.
“Protests could escalate. That’s certainly a possibility,” he said.
“However, it is still limited to some young people, and the burning of the House of Representatives building in Tobruk and road closures and other disruptive behaviour by protesters may influence the decisions of others to join these protests.”
“Despite deteriorating living conditions, Libyans are currently not ready to take to the streets in large numbers,” Bakhbakhi added.
Mayouf said the protests could continue to escalate.
“As far as the protesters are concerned, there is no difference in the contribution of the Debeba government and the Basaga government to the deterioration of living conditions. This is what makes it difficult for one party to use the protests against the other,” he said.
“However, that won’t stop them from trying to ride the wave and try to construct a narrative that shows they support protests against ‘the other side’.”