Protests erupt in eastern Libya due to deteriorating living conditions
From 11-13 September, three consecutive days of protests occurred throughout eastern Libya. The demonstrators protested against worsening living conditions, corruption, limits to fuel purchases and constant power cuts. In Benghazi, on 13 September protestors set fire to the headquarters of the Interim Government and the House of Representatives (HoR). These protests also led to the burning of tires and rubbish throughout the city. Following, on 13 September, the eastern-based Interim Government submitted its resignation to the Speaker of the Tubruq-based HoR, Aqeela Saleh, for consideration by the HoR.
The cause of eastern Libya’s protests –primarily power cuts — now mirror those in the west of the country. More importantly they echo the same resolve: the removal of Libya’s political elite. This will likely increase pressure on Libyan delegations participating in political dialogues to push for reform of its sovereign institutions and may encourage the Libyan National Army (LNA) to lift the oil blockade as means of seeing energy re-directed to the struggling electricity sector. However, by and large, Libyan civilians and the international community lack an immediate mechanism for removing the corruption and political impasses that have entrenched these issues. More protests and a devastating collapse of goods and services is likely to occur in the immediate and near term.
The Interim Government’s submission of its resignation heralds a formal collapse of the civil institutions in the eastern region and likely foreshadows a further deterioration of critical services. However, it is unclear if the HoR will accept the resignation. The development may result in more power being entrusted to the LNA over governance in eastern Libya in line with Haftar’s declaration of the abrogation of the LPA and military rule in April of this year. If so this would effectively see Haftar wrest power back away from Saleh and highlighting the necessity of his inclusion in domestic and international negotiations. With an absent government and public protests, the LNA/Haftar may likely move to secure authority over civic institutions – a more overt and public demonstration of what has arguably already become the case.