BEIRUT

Middle East

Libyan islamists urge PM to resign over corruption, security

File - Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan speaks during a joint news conference with other government ministers in Tripoli March 3, 2013. (REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny)

TRIPOLI: The political arm of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood called on Prime Minister Ali Zeidan to resign, accusing him of failing to tackle corruption or build a united national army in a country riven by tribal rivalries.

Mohammad Sawan, who heads the Islamist Justice and Construction party (JCP), second biggest in Libya's legislature, said the party was also considering withdrawing its five ministers in Zeidan's cabinet, including the oil minister.

Zeidan, a liberal who was elected last October, has seen pressure piling on him by Islamists and independents displeased with his handling of an unprecedented wave of strikes by oil workers and armed guards that has paralysed the country's oil production and led to billions of dollars of lost revenues.

Sawan said there was growing support within the 200-member assembly for a vote of no confidence in Zeidan's government.

"We have waited months for Zeidan's government," Sawan told Reuters in an interview. "Had we believed there was a chance for success of even 10 percent, we would... (wait). The problem is that for Zeidan to stay in power will only worsen this failure."

Political and security problems have been worsened by serious electricity and water shortages that have increased daily hardship for many Libyans who feel little has changed since the 2011 war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

Zeidan was a favorite of the Islamists' liberal rivals but the JCP had relucantly agreed at the time to join his cabinet in a concession to popular demands for a broadbased consenus government to halt the country's descent to chaos Sawan said.

Sawan accused Zeidan of squandering state budget funds and failing to fight rampant corruption, saying over 500,000 Libyans enlisted nominally in various competing army, police and security units were on the state payroll but with a simple policeman not even able to fine a drivers on the streets.

"It's been over eight months and there is no army in existence in Libya. There have been no serious steps taken towards building the army and activating security forces at a time when salaries are paid for hundreds of thousands of police and army ," he said.

"People have not seen anything, no security, nothing, (not even) ... a policeman who is just ready to counsel bad drivers, let alone fine them," he added.

Armed groups made up of former rebel fighters from different parts of the country have grown in power and ambition nearly two years after Gaddafi was ousted. They hold many government institutions hostage to their demands and the government has struggled to impose its authority over them.

Tensions between Zeidan and the Islamists have come to a head since a visit last week by Zeidan to Egypt which angered the JCP, with members accusing him of endorsing the Egyptian military's crackdown against former President Mohammad Morsi.

JCP's secular and liberal rivals say the Islamists, whose main strongholds are in coastal cities such as Misrata, have grown in influence in a parliament that was assuming more executive powers and held senior posts in state institutions.

The killing of a secular liberal critic of the Islamists last July drove crowds of angry Libyans to ransack and burn the JCP headquarters in the capital and Benghazi, accusing them of being behind the killings.

 

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