Seven candidates stand for post of Libya prime minister

A file picture taken on March 12, 2014 shows Libya's interim premier Abdullah al-Thani speaking during a press conference in Tripoli. The Libyan parliament on Sunday began hearing seven candidates who are vying to replace prime minister Abdullah
A file picture taken on March 12, 2014 shows Libya's interim premier Abdullah al-Thani speaking during a press conference in Tripoli. The Libyan parliament on Sunday began hearing seven candidates who are vying to replace prime minister Abdullah al-Thani who quit last week just days after his appointment. FILE PHOTO: AFP

TRIPOLI (AFP) - The Libyan parliament on Sunday began hearing seven candidates who are vying to replace prime minister Abdullah al-Thani who quit last week just days after his appointment.

Mr Thani announced he was stepping down on April 13, five days after the General National Congress, or parliament, tasked him with forming a new cabinet, saying he had been the victim of an attack.

He had replaced Mr Ali Zeidan, who was ousted a month earlier by the GNC, Libya's highest political authority, for failing to rein in the lawlessness gripping the country.

Members of the GNC, were due to hear the candidates present their programme of government on Sunday, but no date had been fixed for the vote.

The winner needs to secure 120 votes out of 200.

Three of the competitors are seen as frontrunners: Mr Omar al-Hassi, who comes from the eastern city of Benghazi, businessman Mr Ahmed Miitig and Mr Mohamed Buker, former director of the civil state department.

But some observers doubt that the GNC, which is deeply divided, will be able to reach a consensus on a candidate.

Mr Thani announced on April 13 that he would be standing down, saying he and his family had been the victims of a "traitorous" armed attack the previous day.

His decision has further complicated the situation, where the government has struggled to impose its will across the vast, mostly desert nation that has been awash with weapons since the 2011 uprising that toppled the regime of veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

The GNC named Mr Thani interim premier as a replacement for Mr Zeidan, who was ousted by a vote of no-confidence after a tanker laden with oil from a rebel-held terminal in eastern Libya broke through a naval blockade and escaped to sea despite government threats to block it by force if necessary.

Since Mr Zeidan's departure the GNC has been the scene of a power struggle between Islamist and liberal members.

The GNC was elected in July 2012 to an 18-month mandate but stirred popular anger by extending its term from early February until the end of December this year.

Under pressure from demonstrators, it later announced early elections but gave no date for the vote.