Libya MPs back Fathi Bashagha as interim prime minister

His predecessor, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, has refused to cede power except to an elected government

26 December 2019, Tunisia, Tunis: Fathi Bashagha, Interior Minister of the Tripoli-based UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) attends a press conference during a visit to Tunisia. Turkey will deploy troops to Libya upon GNA's invitation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday, a step set to fuel a long-running feud in Libya. On the other hand, Bashagha said that the GNA would officially ask Turkey for military support, arising from its right to protect its legitimacy. Photo: Khaled Nasraoui/dpa (Photo by Khaled Nasraoui/picture alliance via Getty Images)

MPs in eastern Libya confirmed former interior minister Fathi Bashagha as the country’s new interim prime minister on Tuesday in a move that is likely to lead to rival parallel administrations.

Mr Bashagha’s predecessor, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, once again refused to cede power except to an elected government and rejected the vote, raising the chances of conflict.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said 92 out of the 101 MPs present voted for Mr Bashagha’s government, but pro-Dbeibah forces once again mobilised in the capital Tripoli, calling for the dissolution of the House of Representatives and immediate elections.

Mr Dbeibah was appointed through a UN-led process in February last year on the condition that he lead the country until elections. The effort to replace him stems from Libya’s failure to hold its first presidential election during his watch.

A presidential election was scheduled for December 24, the day the mandate for Mr Dbeibah’s Government of National Unity ended.

However, disputes over the final list of candidates and security threats caused the vote to be postponed to an as-yet-unspecified date.

Mr Bashagha and Mr Dbeibah had both registered as candidates in the presidential election, as had Muammar Qaddafi’s son, Seif Al Islam — who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes — and Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah attends the graduation ceremony of a batch of Libyan army cadets, in Tripoli. AP

Mr Bashagha’s new government includes three deputy prime ministers, one for each of the country’s three provinces as well as 29 ministers and six ministers of state.

There are only two women in the Cabinet, overseeing the Ministry of Culture and Arts and holding the position of State Minister for Women's Affairs.

Mr Bashagha appointed Ahmeid Houma, the second deputy speaker of the parliament, to lead the Ministry of Defence, and Brig Essam Abu Zreiba, from the western city of Zawiya, as interior minister. Former ambassador to the EU, Hafez Qadour, was named foreign minister.

The appointment of Mr Bashagha last month is part of a road map that also involves constitutional amendments and sets the date for elections within 14 months.

The move deepened divisions among Libyan factions and raised fears that fighting could return after more than 18 months of relative calm.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the body is closely watching the developments, saying “the ongoing political legislative process” must be transparent “and adhere to established rules and agreements”.

He also stressed the importance of maintaining the “calm and stability” that has been achieved since the October 2020 ceasefire agreement.

The UN mission’s mandate in Libya will expire in two months amid a series of issues for the new prime minister to handle. These include presidential and parliamentary elections, controlling Libya's many militias and foreign armed groups, economic investment and the unification of the security forces.

Civil war broke out in Libya after the Nato-backed uprising against Qaddafi overthrew him before he was killed. The country was split into two rival administrations, one in Tripoli and another in the eastern Tobruk. - Additional reporting by AP

Updated: March 02, 2022, 8:01 AM