Libya proposes June election as crisis escalates

Reuters News
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Posted: May 20, 2014 3:01 PM

By Ahmed Elumami and Ulf Laessing

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libyan authorities on Tuesday proposed a June national election as the government sought to resolve a standoff over parliament involving powerful brigades of former rebel fighters.

Libya's General National Congress (GNC) is at the heart of the crisis after gunmen claiming loyalty to a renegade former general attacked the parliament with anti-aircraft cannons on Sunday and demanding its suspension.

Parliament, split between Islamist and anti-Islamist forces, had said in February it would hold early elections, under pressure over Libya's chaotic transition to democracy since the 2011 uprising that ousted Muammar Gaddafi.

The June 25 election proposal appeared to be an attempt to ease tensions after Sunday's attack claimed by forces loyal to former General Khalifa Haftar, and to avoid the potential response by rival Islamist militia brigades.

"The commission has not yet officially announced June 25 as the date of the elections of the House of Representatives. But it is only one of the proposals to hold the elections," election commission member Abdulhakeem Al-Shaab told Reuters.

A local television station had earlier quoted the election commission saying that the June date was set.

In some of the worst fighting in Tripoli since the 2011 war, gunmen shelled the General National Congress on Sunday in an attack claimed by forces loyal to Haftar, who has begun a campaign to purge the North African country of Islamists.

Three years after the end of Gaddafi's one-man rule, Libya remains in constant upheaval, its government fragile, parliament split and the nascent army unable to control rival bands of former rebels who often challenge the state.

(Writing by Patrick Markey and Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich)