“The people’s right to protest peacefully must be respected and protected, but the riots and acts of vandalism such as the storming of the House of Representatives headquarters late yesterday in Tobruk are totally unacceptable,” said Stephanie Williams, the UN special adviser for Libya, on Twitter. .
Friday’s protests came a day after leaders of parliament and another Tripoli-based legislative chamber failed to reach an agreement on the elections at UN-mediated talks in Geneva. The dispute now centers on the conditions of eligibility of the candidates, according to the UN
Libya did not hold elections in December following difficulties including legal disputes, controversial presidential candidates and the presence of rogue militias and foreign fighters in the country.
The failure to hold the vote was a major obstacle to international efforts to bring peace to the Mediterranean country. It has opened a new chapter in its long-running political stalemate, with two rival governments now claiming power after attempts at unity over the past year.
Protesters, frustrated by years of chaos and division, called for the suppression of the current political class and the holding of elections. They also mobilized against the dire economic conditions in the oil-rich country, where prices have risen for fuel and bread and power outages are frequent.
There were fears that militias across the country could crack down on protests as they did during the 2020 protests when they opened fire on people protesting dire economic conditions.
Sabadell Jose, the European Union’s envoy to Libya, called on protesters to “avoid any type of violence”. He said Friday’s protests demonstrated that people want “change through elections and their voices need to be heard”.
Libya has been wracked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country was then for years divided between rival administrations in the east and in the west, each supported by different militias and foreign governments.