By Ahmed Elumami, Ayman and al-Warfali
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya (Reuters) – Fury against Libya’s embattled leaders boiled over on Friday as protesters stormed the parliament building in the eastern city of Tobruk and staged the biggest demonstration in years in the capital Tripoli, to the west.
Protesters in Tobruk, accusing the parliament of treason and theft of public funds, some eight years after its election, broke into the building and set parts of it on fire as the armed forces retreated.
In videos uploaded and confirmed by residents of the city, protesters shouted and cheered as flames licked the side of the building.
As political factions vied for control of the government after failing to hold elections scheduled for last year, Libya was pushed back towards territorial division and civil war as state services gradually crumbled.
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Protests over chronic power cuts have brought protesters to the streets of several cities, braving the wrath of armed factions to vent their anger at failures that have made life intolerable during the sweltering summer months.
In Tripoli’s Martyrs’ Square, several hundred people gathered to shout slogans demanding electricity, criticizing armed factions and politicians and demanding elections in the capital’s biggest protests against the ruling elite in decades. years.
Later Friday, dozens of protesters stood outside the government headquarters building, chanting “we want power, we want power.”
Other demonstrations by dozens of protesters also took place in Benghazi, al-Baydha and Misrata and some smaller towns, showing how anger over the situation extends to the front lines of power between rival forces of the country.
“We are fed up, we are fed up! The nation wants to overthrow governments! We want electricity! shouted protesters in Tripoli, accompanied by chants demanding elections.
They also chanted slogans against armed factions that exercise control over large swaths of Libya. “No to the militias. We want the police and the army,” they chanted.
Armed forces affiliated with the police and army were visible around Martyrs’ Square. During protests two years ago, shots were fired at protesters.
“I am here today to protest against all the officials who put this country in hell,” said Omar Derbal, 23, a science student.
“We are an oil-producing country that suffers power cuts every day. This means the country is run by corrupt individuals,” he added.
In the eastern Libyan town of al-Quba, birthplace of parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, dozens of residents demanded the fall of all governments and political bodies due to low living standards .
Libya’s electricity sector has been plagued by years of war and political chaos, halting investment, preventing maintenance work and sometimes damaging infrastructure.
A caretaker unity government installed last year pledged to resolve the issues, but although it issued contracts for work on several power plants, none came into effect and political wrangling has prevented continuation of work.
Meanwhile, as the eastern-based parliament appoints Fathi Bashagha to lead a new government, even as caretaker unity prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah refuses to cede power, political stalemate looms to make matters worse.
Eastern-based factions blockaded oil installations, cutting fuel supplies to major power stations, causing more blackouts.
In Tripoli, demonstrators held up placards on which the faces of Dbeibah, Bashagha, Saleh, another legislative leader and the UN representative were crossed out with large red marks.
(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami in Tripoli and Ayman al-Warfali in Benghazi; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Daniel Wallis)
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