Ali Zeidan

An escalating conflict over oil revenue in Eastern Libya has led to the expulsion of its Prime Minister, following a vote of no confidence.

TRIPOLI — Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan has been dismissed from office on Tuesday—a vote of no confidence after an Eastern, pro-autonomy militia was able to independently load and cast off an oil tanker bearing the North Korean flag. His removal comes after a difficult 15-month period where there has been growing anger at his inability to control the fractious political situation, with militia groups involved in the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi still armed and able to interrupt oil exports essential to the Libyan economy. His lack of authority was made clear on Saturday, when he admitted to reporters that the nation’s military were no longer carrying out his orders.

Former Defence Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni was sworn in as the new caretaker Prime Minister during the General National Congress (GNC) session, and will serve for two weeks while the GNC parties agree on a long term appointment to the post. MP Suad Gannur stated before the vote: ‘The situation in the country has become unacceptable. Even those MPs who used to support the prime minister no longer have any alternative.’

Whoever is selected by parliament will be tasked with bringing oil terminals back under state control. The GNC has given the militia, commanded by Ibrahim Jadran, two weeks to relinquish its facilities. Any use of force to retake the terminals, however, risks damaging important equipment, further delaying the crude exports the economy relies upon. The current confrontation has already reduced Libyan oil exports from 1.5 million barrels a day to only 2,50,000—a situation which could lead to the Libyan state becoming bankrupt if allowed to continue in the medium term.

The tanker, disowned by the North Korean government, has been spotted recently off the coast of Egypt. Forces loyal to Ibrahim Jadran expect a second tanker to dock at the As Sindra export terminal soon. They insist that revenue from oil production in the Eastern region Cyrenaica should be kept within that region.

A travel ban relating to financial irregularity was imposed by the Attorney General the night Ali Zeidan was removed from office; however, he appears to have flouted the ban and left the country that same night.

— Alex Smith, Correspondent (Politics)

Image Courtesy: By US Department of State [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons