By Libya Herald reporter.
Tunis, 13 October 2017:
A group of some 50 or more demonstrators took to the streets of Sabratha this afternoon after Friday prayers demanding the replacement of the mayor, Hassen Dhawadi, and the entire municipal council.
Dhawadi is accused of being a Islamist sympathiser and, two years ago, of at best turning a blind eye to the presence and activities of the so-called Islamic State (IS) in the town or, at worst, colluding with them.
After the US strikes in February last year on IS camps in the town in which some 60 militants were killed, he started taking an active stance against IS having previously denied that it was in Sabratha at all. Just over a week ago, again sensing the way events were moving, he came out in favour of the Anti-Dash Operations Room (AIOR) only hours before it took full control of the town.
Yesterday, responding to calls for his removal but urging reconciliation and calm, the municipal council said it would respect the will of the people but that fresh elections would have to be in accordance with the law.
There are no legal means for fresh elections.
According to Otman Gajiji, the former chairman for the Central Committee for Municipal Council Elections, a councillor can resign but under the terms of the 2012 local government law, he or she has to be replaced by the candidate with the next highest number of votes at the municipal council elections. There is no provision for by-elections. The law, he says, firmly states that new municipal elections are held only every four years. This could be changed, he adds, but not by a presidency council decree. It would need an amendment passed by the House of Representatives.
While the Sabratha protestors were demanding the council’s removal this afternoon, in neighbouring Ajilat several dozen locals gathered to demand the return of the army and police. Many were said to be Salafists, encouraged by the removal of the pro-Islamist Amu Brigade last week in Sabratha and the victory of the AIOR. Many of the latter’s combatants are also Salafists.
The call for the return of the army and police is often taken to mean support for Khalifa Hafter and the Libyan National Army.
Two and a half months ago, when a small group of young Sabrathans protested in support of Hafter, they were described as “despicable” by the municipal council which demanded they surrender themselves to the authorities.