TRIPOLI, (Reuters) – Businessman Ahmed Maiteeq was sworn in as Libya’s new prime minister yesterday after chaotic voting in parliament, but hours later the deputy speaker declared the election invalid as a power struggle erupted in the assembly.
The divisions in the assembly showcase growing turmoil in the North African country awash with arms and militias from the 2011 ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, where government and parliament are unable to assert authority.
Officials gave contradicting versions of the parliamentary election outcome, with First Deputy Speaker Ezzedin al-Awami initially saying Maiteeq had failed to obtain the necessary quorum even through he had emerged as front-runner in prior votes.
But a power struggle over who controls the assembly broke out when Saleh Makhzoum, second deputy speaker, rejected Awami’s assertion and said Maiteeq had won the necessary support.
“Ahmed Maiteeq is officially the new prime minister,” Makhzoum told a televised session interrupted by shouts from lawmakers challenging Maiteeq’s win. He asked the businessman to form a government within two weeks.
Hours later, Awami declared the vote invalid and instructed Abdullah al-Thinni, who had resigned three weeks ago, to continue ruling the major oil producer.
“Mr Ahmed Omar Maiteeq failed to reach the quorum of 120 votes necessary according to the law to elect a new prime minister,” Awami wrote in a letter to Thinni posted on the cabinet website.
It was unclear what would happen next as the two speakers argued with each other live on al-Ahrar television, with Makhzoum insisting Maiteeq had been elected. “From a legal point of view the vote process was right and clear,” he said.
Cabinet spokesman Ahmed Lamin, asked by Reuters what Thinni planned to do, said the government would implement any instructions from parliament according to the constitutional principles. He did not elaborate.