Tripoli. Libya has grown increasingly polarised as the country remains gripped by violent clashes between rival armed groups and the country’s fledgling parliament struggles to garner legitimacy.
The Libyan parliament convened for its first official session last Monday in the northeastern city of Tobruk, but 30 elected representatives boycotted the session. “It’s unconstitutional to hold the session in Tobruk,” said Mohamed al-Tharat, a member of the parliament representing the city of Misrata.
Tharat told Al Jazeera that he didn’t attend the meeting because a declaration in Libya’s interim constitution - a set of rules on how, where and when the interim government and parliament will work - states that parliamentary sessions must be held in Benghazi.
Most MPs who boycotted the session hail from Misrata, home to many Islamist factions and their military arm, the Libya Shield, the single largest force in the country. “The session in Tobruk is illegitimate, and we believe some members are being forced to attend,” Tharat added. The parliament was elected on June 25 and its representatives are now expected to come into their positions during one of the most difficult periods since longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi was removed from power in 2011.
In Tripoli, rival militias have battled for over a month for control of the city’s main airport. The airport road, a motorway linking Tripoli’s international airport to the city, has been a frontline for battles between militias from Zintan and rival Islamist groups from Misrata and Tripoli. Hundreds of people have died, while basic services are under severe strain. Meanwhile, in the east and west of the country, fighting has broken out between rival militias, edging closer to the capital.
In the session, parliament members elected Ageela Issa, from the eastern city of al-Baitha, to act as chairman. One of the parliament’s first motions was then to call for a ceasefire and dialogue between the armed factions involved in the fighting.
“The decree [calling for a ceasefire] states that we will request the assistance of the United Nations if the different forces do not comply with the ceasefire,” said Younis Fanoush, an MP from Benghazi who was at the session in Tobruk.