CAIRO (AP) — Libya's outgoing parliament voted Monday to replace the current interim government with one headed by an Islamist-backed candidate, deepening the conflict-torn country's already stark divisions and leaving it with two rival parliaments and governments.
The outgoing parliament met in Tripoli in defiance of the newly-elected parliament, which convenes in the country's east because of ongoing clashes in the capital and the eastern city of Benghazi. The Islamist-dominated outgoing parliament refused to recognize the authority of the new one, which is dominated by non-Islamists, because it said it has not formally handed over authority.
The division is rooted in rivalries between Islamists and non-Islamists, as well as powerful tribal and regional divisions between groups who all ascended to power following the 2011 fall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The political rivalry has been coupled with militia infighting that has scarred the capital and driven thousands of its residents out. It has also turned the country's second largest city into a battlefield between Islamist militias and fighters loyal to a renegade army general who vowed to weed them out.
Following a weeks-long battle over control of the capital's airport, Islamist militias claimed control of the facility, largely destroyed, and Tripoli. The militias then urged the outgoing parliament to convene to "protect state sovereignty."
On Monday, a Libyan lawmaker and television stations said the Islamist-dominated parliament voted to sack the current interim government of Abdullah al-Thinni, currently residing in the east. The lawmakers voted unanimously to appoint a new "national salvation government" headed by Omar al-Hassi, a university professor.
The lawmaker, who attended the session, said 88 deputies voted for the move. Libyan television station Alharar said 94 lawmakers voted. The discrepancy could not be immediately reconciled because the parliament was still in closed session.
The lawmaker spoke on condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution.
That parliament had previously tried to sack al-Thinni. But Libya's constitutional court declared the move unconstitutional.