Libya’s interim government, the Western-backed National Transitional Council, is in crisis tonight after the key city of Benghazi erupted in mass protests which saw government offices ransacked and political leadership scrambling for cover.
The protesters focused their anger on NTC officials with close ties to the former regime, including the NTC’s second-in-command Abdel Hafedh Ghoga, who announced his resignation today.
Ghoga was one of the late defectors from the Gadhafi regime to the NTC, and protesters condemned him as a political opportunist. Ghoga insisted he believed the resignation was for “the benefit of the nation.”
In addition to Ghoga’s ouster, NTC head Mustafa Abdul-Jalil announced that he is suspending all six delegates from Benghazi indefinitely over the protests. Though the suspensions appear to have been aimed at a show of faith to protesters who complained the delegates weren’t being transparent in their actions, it also leaves the seat of the anti-Gadhafi movement with no representation in the council, and delegates are already spinning their suspension as part of the problem.
Protests were also reported in the cities of Misrata and Tripoli, but Benghazi was clearly the real story, as it was not only the site of the largest protesters but also is one of the few cities generally seen to be under the NTC’s control.
Being the home of the anti-Gadhafi rebellion is likely to give Benghazi even more importance to the NTC than its enormous population would normally dictate, and the prospect of continued protests has many wondering if the government can possibly last.