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The Great Loon's Legacy
Libya Elects, then Deposes, New Prime Minister

Libya has emerged from months of discord and chaos to finally agree on a new Prime Minister who will lead the country on a more democratic—wait, sorry, the new Prime Minister has just been deposed. Or has he? It’s hard to keep track of the country’s political leaders, who take office one day and are tossed out the next. Sometimes they don’t even last a day. Let’s see if we can get this straight.

Ahmed Maitig won 113 votes in parliament during a “chaotic” session yesterday, seven short of the 120 he needed to become Prime Minister. The session was reportedly adjourned due to heated arguments between the members, but parliament was later reconvened and a new vote held. Maitig got his eight extra votes for a total of 121, enough to see him safely into office (or so he thought). He was sworn in on live television. “Thank you for your confidence,” he said to parliament and the people. But hours later, the speaker of parliament declared the second vote illegal and rejected Maitig’s appointment. It’s not yet clear whether he is or is not the Prime Minister.

Maitig would be the fifth or sixth (there are conflicting claims) Libyan Prime Minister since Muammar Qaddafi was overthrown and murdered in 2011. His predecessors have struggled with the position. Abdullah al-Thinni, his immediate predecessor, quit after an attack on his family. Ali Zeidan, who came just before al-Thinni, was kidnapped by a crew of over a hundred gunmen; the kidnappers didn’t know what to do with their hostage and released him unharmed. Zeidan didn’t last much longer: A vote of no-confidence forced him from office a few months later.

Calm and stability are in short supply in Libya these days. The vote in which Maitig was or was not elected Prime Minister was originally supposed to take place last Tuesday but was postponed when gunmen stormed parliament (not for the first time). Various militias and political groups, many heavily armed, some secular and some Islamist, operate in Libya’s main cities with impunity. Al-Qaeda appears to have established itself in the southern desert, buying weapons and recruiting new fighters. Government, the police, and the official armed forces—such as exist—are essentially powerless. Parliament is so divided that it can’t even count votes properly.

Libya’s political travails might be comical if they weren’t so disappointing. With no end to the chaos in sight, the international community is resigned to voicing “support” for whichever elected official appears to be legitimate. But since a politician’s legitimacy can vary from day to day (as we see here), that support means little to nothing.

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  • Corlyss

    Okay. They got the removal from office down pretty good. Now they should try leaving one in place long enough to change his clothes.

  • Andrew Allison

    TAI has, more than once in the past, convincingly made the case that the turmoil in Libya is a result of the ill-conceived intervention which toppled Gaddafi.

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