Protesters set fire to the Libyan parliament building after protests against the failure of the government in Tobruk, Libya July 1, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

They are disturbing images – and they act like a beacon. A parliament that goes up in flames. Bulldozers that are directed into barriers. Enraged demonstrators rioting in the building, waving green flags of the ousted ruler Muammar al Gaddafi in 2011 and chanting “We want light” – an allusion to constant power cuts. In addition, security forces fired shots.

All of this happened in the eastern Libyan port city of Tobruk. But at the end of last week there was also serious unrest in the capital Tripoli, in Misrata, Benghazi and other places. Observers agree: the North African crisis country could slide further into violence and anarchy.

People take to the streets for a variety of reasons. But the anger can be reduced to one common denominator: The Libyans finally want a better life. They are tired of the chaos, the corruption, the catastrophic economic situation and the failure of the elites. The most recent protests are therefore primarily directed against the political deadlock.

What is paralyzing Libya at the moment is that two rival heads of government are facing each other. On the one hand there is the internationally recognized interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dhaiba, who is trying to lead the country from Tripoli. At the same time, the government of ex-Interior Minister Fathi Baschaga claims power for itself.

Baschaga is not only allied with the parliament in the east, but also with the influential rebel general Chalifa Haftar, who has already tried to seize power several times – supported by Russia. Prime Minister Dhaiba, on the other hand, only wants to hand over his office to a prime minister elected by the people.

The only problem is that the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for December did not take place because of the unstable situation and fighting between the candidates. The whole thing culminated in an attempt to drive Dhaiba out of the capital and out of power. But Bashaga’s attack in May, supported by militias from the east of the country, failed. The country is and will remain deeply divided.

This is primarily at the expense of the almost seven million people in Libya, many of whom are living in great need – and have been since the fall of long-term dictator Gaddafi.

The civil war that has been raging for eleven years has made the population impoverished. The power goes out again and again, there are no jobs, people are demanding affordable bread – and that in an oil-rich, once prosperous country. But hostile militias, warlords and clan chiefs have Libya firmly in their grip.

They enrich themselves in their respective areas of influence, mostly at the expense of the people. Again and again there are power struggles between armed units. All this drives the desperate onto the streets – and lets them set fire to parliaments.