Libyan parliament to hold session in war-torn Sirte amid political deadlock

Tripoli remains divided between militias linked to political parties

Libya's parliament is backing Fathi Bashagha as interim prime minister over the incumbent, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. Reuters

A stand-off over the control of Tripoli continued on Tuesday after Libya's parliament said it would hold a session in Sirte, a war-torn town on a ceasefire line between rival administrations in the east and west of the country.

Parliament is backing Fathi Bashagha as interim prime minister over the incumbent, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, said the chamber's spokesman, Abdullah Belhaiq.

Mr Dbeibah, who was named head of the Government of National Unity in March 2021, has refused to relinquish power unless long-delayed national elections are held next month.

However, his administration is facing a crisis.

Fighting ended in Sirte in 2020 after a ceasefire deal was reached by forces loyal to Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, whose Libya National Army was aligned with an administration in Tobruk, and the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, which struggled to control militias linked to political parties.

Now, there are concerns that the current stand-off could lead to a new round of conflict in Tripoli, after two years of comparative peace, or lead to it being split again between rival camps.

The announcement of the parliamentary session in Sirte represents the clearest acknowledgement that Mr Bashagha, who was appointed in March, cannot take over in Tripoli due to the widening rift between the two sides.

Before the war between the LNA and the GNA, militias in Tripoli frequently fought running battles, culminating in a wave of violence in August and September 2018 that bought the capital to a standstill and killed at least 115 people.

Both sides in Tripoli remain backed by armed factions and any attempt by Mr Bashagha to force his way into Tripoli could lead to fighting across the western areas of the country.

Libya has had little peace since the 2011 Nato-backed uprising against Muammar Qaddafi.

In 2014, the country was split between warring factions in the west, where Tripoli is located, and in the east, where the parliament is based.

Mr Dbeibah's government was given a mandate to run the entire country for an interim period as part of a peace process that was meant to include national elections in December.

However, after the election process collapsed amid disputes over the rules, the eastern-based parliament said Mr Dbeibah's term had expired and moved to appoint its own administration.

Mr Dbeibah says his government is still valid and that he will hand over power only after an election.

Updated: May 11, 2022, 1:17 PM