Hundreds of people stormed Libya’s eastern parliament building in the port city of Tobruk on Friday, according to local media reports, the latest in a string of clashes between groups supporting rivaling leaders.
Libya has been split between warring factions since 2014, following the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Moammar Gadhafi.
The country’s interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, the head of the UN-backed Government of National Unity (GNU), is based in Tripoli in the western part of Libya. The parliament building in Tobruk in the east of the country is the seat of a rival government led by Prime Minister Fathy Bashag.
Libyan media, including LANA, the official news agency of the internationally recognized government, and Almarsad, a leading news outlet, reported that protesters entered the building in Tobruk on Friday.
Several cities, including Tripoli, have witnessed demonstrations over deteriorating living conditions and calls for the dissolution of political bodies, the reports said.
Videos posted on social media showed protesters inside the parliament building shouting “long live Libya.” Other videos showed people gathering trash and tires in front of the building and setting them on fire. The building was empty when protesters stormed it.
Dbeibeh said in a Twitter post that he was supporting the demands of the protesters across the country.
“All [political] bodies must leave, including the government, and there is no way to do that except through elections,” Dbeibeh said, referring to Bashag’s government.
“The parties obstructing the elections are known to the Libyan people and the same ones that obstructed budgets and closed oil, which contributed to the exacerbation of the living crisis,” he added.
Dbeibeh was appointed following UN-brokered talks in Geneva last year. He was tasked with leading the transitional government into elections, but that process ended in disarray late last year because of disputes over electoral rules, including the legitimacy of his own candidacy. According to his government, he survived an assassination attempt earlier this year.
After the election was postponed in December, Libya’s eastern parliament appointed Bashaga to lead the country.
Dbeibah does not recognize Bashaga’s premiership, and Bashaga accuses Dbeibah of losing his mandate following the postponement of the vote.
The interior ministry of GNU released a statement on Friday saying all Libyan have the right to protest as long as they are peaceful demonstrations and ” in accordance with the laws.”