Protesters disrupt Libyan congress vote on new government

 

Tripioli, Libya

Protesters stormed Libya's General National Congress on Tuesday, just as representatives were moving to vote on a government after months of political stalemate.

The protesters said they objected to several nominees in Prime Minister Ali Zidan's proposed 27-member cabinet, including the minister of Islamic affairs, who they said was a secularist.

Amid the disruption, congressional leader Mohamed Yusuf al-Magariaf adjourned the vote until Wednesday morning. "Let it be known to all Libyans and to the whole world in what conditions we are working in," he said during the session, which was televised.

The political impasse is rooted in an ongoing power struggle, as towns, tribes, Islamists and liberals compete for a say in the post-Moammar Gadhafi order.

Libyan officials said the absence of a functioning cabinet has hindered the government's ability to address some of the most pressing issues in postwar Libya, including the security void in which hundreds of militias operate with impunity.

Members of the GNC, who were elected in July, said the stalemate has also slowed the government's investigation of an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in the eastern city of Benghazi last month that left Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans dead.

"It's a tragic situation that we're in," said Ahmed Langhi, a member of congress who represents Benghazi. None of the government bodies charged with investigating the attack is functioning well, he said. "In the new government, all of these will work better."

Libya's prime minister-elect was dismissed this month after failing for the second time to secure the GNC's approval for a new cabinet.

Many GNC members expressed frustration as they left the assembly hall Tuesday night. "You don't want to be making decisions like this under that kind of pressure," said Mohamed Ali Abdallah, a representative from Misurata.

The assembly will attempt to vote again Wednesday.

- - -

Ayman al-Kekly contributed to this report.

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