Libya's prime minister-designate failed to name the members of a much-anticipated Cabinet before a deadline passed on Thursday, raising questions about whether his transitional government can unite the country's factions.
Abdul Hamid Dbeibah was set to announce his Cabinet from the capital, Tripoli, and send the names to Libya's House of Representatives for approval.
Instead, Mr Dbeibah said he had only sent politicians his proposed guidelines for the selection of Cabinet members and an outline of his priorities.
Appointing the Cabinet is part of UN-backed plans for a transition that will lead to general elections in December.
Since 2015, Libyan state institutions have been divided between two governments: one in the east and another in the west, each supported by an array of militias and foreign governments.
If approved, Mr Dbeibah's Cabinet will replace a Tripoli-based Government of National Accord, led by Fayez Al Sarraj, and a government set up by the House of Representatives in eastern Libya.
"We are ready to submit the names [of ministers] but we should consult among ourselves and examine candidate names meticulously," Mr Dbeibah said, without specifying when he would submit his Cabinet.
"We received more than 3,000 applications but were only able to study 2,300 of them."
Mr Dbeibah said his main objective "is to bring Libyans together and to make the competence of ministers a primary criteria".
He said he envisaged a Cabinet of technocrats that would represent Libya's different geographic areas and social segments, with ministerial portfolios divided equally between candidates from the east, west and south.
“These are critical times and we are taking into consideration that the Cabinet must genuinely achieve national unity and seek consensus and reconciliation," he said.
Mr Dbeibah was elected as prime minister-designate by Libyan delegates at a UN-sponsored conference near Geneva this month.
The 75-member Libyan Political Dialogue Forum also elected a three-member Presidential Council, which along with Mr Dbeibah should lead the country to general elections on December 24. Mohamed Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east, was selected as chairman of the council.
Mr Dbeibah has until March 19 to win parliament's approval for his unity government.
But the House of Representatives, which never recognised the legitimacy of the GNA, is itself split.
In 2019, 50 deputies staged a boycott in protest against the Speaker Aguila Saleh's support for an offensive by eastern forces to seize Tripoli, before a UN-brokered ceasefire last October.
Now the deputies cannot decide where to convene for the vote on Mr Dbeibah's team.
Mr Saleh wants to hold the session in Sirte, halfway between east and west, but the majority of politicians prefer the town Sabratha, west of Tripoli.
If a quorum for parliament is not met, the 75 delegates who took part in the Switzerland talks will vote for the executive.