Libyan MPs try again to elect a PM

AFP , Sunday 4 May 2014

Members of the special body tasked to draft a new constitution for Libya and members of the General National Congress (GNC) stand during the national anthem during the body's first meeting in Bayda April 21, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Libya's parliament met on Sunday to decide between two candidates for the post of prime minister after an earlier gathering was broken up by gunmen.

Deputies said members of the General National Congress (GNC) would choose between Misrata businessman Ahmed Miitig and Benghazi academic Omar al-Hassi.

They won Tuesday's first round from an initial field of seven candidates, with 67 and 34 votes respectively out of the 152 deputies present.

A second round of voting due to have taken place on Tuesday had to be postponed when gunmen stormed into the assembly.

It was not known who the gunmen were or why they burst into the building.

The incident highlighted the lawlessness following the overthrow of Moamer Kadhafi in a NATO-backed uprising in 2011, unrest which the new premier will be expected to tackle when he forms his administration.

On Sunday, 152 deputies gathered amid no visible increase in security to vote for the new premier, the third in just a few months in the North African nation still rocked by violence 30 months after the rebels killed Kadhafi in October 2011.

Some lawmakers, convinced that neither Miitig nor Hassi would secure the 120 votes necessary to win the second round, had proposed that the new prime minister be elected by a simple majority vote instead.

One deputy said that a compromise had been reached on Sunday under which the winner would indeed be elected by the second method.

But he would then be subject to a vote of confidence in which he would need to secure 120 "for" votes.

The vote for a new prime minister comes with the GNC in the grip of a power struggle between Islamists and liberals.

The election was triggered by the resignation of interim premier Abdullah al-Thani earlier this month, who quit just five days after his appointment, saying he and his family had come under attack.

Thani, a former defence minister, only got the job because MPs could not agree on a replacement after they ousted Ali Zeidan in March to punish his failure to prevent a rebel oil shipment.

Libya's legislature has been attacked repeatedly by various armed groups over the past 18 months. In one assault on March 2, two lawmakers were wounded by bullets.

The weak central government has struggled to rein in heavily armed former rebel brigades from the uprising that ended Kadhafi's four-decade rule.

Many of the militias have carved out their own fiefdoms and refuse to join the new security forces.

Violence has been particularly severe in Benghazi, Hassi's hometown in the east.

The country's second city was the cradle of the 2011 uprising, but has since been plagued by violence that has killed dozens of security force personnel.

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