By LIAM STACK
Published: January 22, 2012
Protesters are demanding more transparency from the transitional council, which holds executive power and is tasked with overseeing the election of a constituent assembly to draft a new Constitution. It is dominated by figures from the eastern rebel movement, much to the suspicion of other regional factions, and there are accusations, too, that many of its members are tainted by past ties, real or suspected, with the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi.
On Saturday night, those frustrations boiled over when a crowd of mostly young men attacked the council’s offices in Benghazi, tossing a grenade, smashing windows and forcing their way into the building while the council’s chairman, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, was inside.
The spark appeared to be the online release of a draft election law to govern the selection of the 200-member constituent assembly. Activists said it was prepared without consultation or public oversight and that its winner-take-all rules would encourage Libyans to vote along tribal lines or for rich or prominent citizens in their region, and undercut those seeking to form new parties.
Seeking to contain the fallout from the attack, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the transitional council’s deputy chief, resigned Sunday, telling the Arabic satellite channel Al Jazeera, “My resignation is for the benefit of the nation and is required at this stage.”
Speaking to reporters in Benghazi on Sunday, Mr. Abdel-Jalil warned that continued protests could lead the country down a perilous path and pleaded with protesters to give the government more time.
“We are going through a political movement that can take the country to a bottomless pit,” Reuters quoted Mr. Abdel-Jalil as saying. “There is something behind these protests that is not for the good of the country.
“The people have not given the government enough time, and the government does not have enough money,” Mr. Abdel-Jalil said. “Maybe there are delays, but the government has only been working for two months. Give them a chance, at least two months.”
The interim government suspended several members from Benghazi and announced that it would form a council of religious figures to investigate government officials and council members accused of corruption or ties to the Qaddafi government. It also delayed the official release of the election law.
Both the incident itself and the leadership’s response were met with widespread anger in Benghazi, according to Salwa Bugaighis, a lawyer and political activist who was a leading figure in the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi.
“We are worried,” she said. “We are afraid that maybe it becomes worse.”
Ms. Bugaighis said that the protesters in Benghazi were particularly angry about allegations that millions of dollars — and possibly billions — in government money was unaccounted for.
“They want transparency. They want people from the Qaddafi regime to go,” she said. “If there’s no transparency, everything will collapse.”
A transitional council member from Benghazi, Fathi Baaja, denied that he or anyone else had been suspended, despite widespread reports to the contrary. He said an Islamist faction — “religious groups and mosque preachers” — on the Benghazi local council had pushed for the suspensions but said that “they have no right to suspend us.” Continue