Who is Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, Libya's controversial prime minister designate?

Allegations of corruption have marred his appointment

Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah speaks during a news conference on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Tripoli, Libya.  Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was set to announce his Cabinet and send it to Libya's House of Representatives for approval.  Instead, Dbeibah told reporters he only shared with Libyan lawmakers proposed guidelines for the selection of Cabinet members and an outline of his priorities in the coming period. (AP Photo/Hazem Ahmed)
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Libyan Prime Minister designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, elected last month in a process UN investigators said was marred by bribery, is a wealthy 62-year-old businessman from the western town of Misrata.

He rose to prominence more than a decade ago during the rule of the dictator Muammar Qaddafi, who was deposed in 2011.

Qaddafi’s government appointed Mr Dbeibah as head of a powerful state-owned construction agency, the Libyan Investment and Development Company (Lidco).

Mr Dbeibah is an expert in construction who earned a master's degree in engineering in Canada.

By 2007, Libya was free of the international sanctions imposed on Qaddafi following the Lockerbie aircraft bombing of 1989, and oil revenues were booming. It began a series of ambitious government construction projects.

Thousands of homes were built in cities, including more than 1,000 in Qaddafi's home town of Sirte. Lidco supervised much of the work.

The construction boom was choked by the revolution and the chaos that followed, with Libya lurching into civil war in 2014 and several state housing projects left largely incomplete.

After 2011, Mr Dbeibah became head of Libya’s oldest football club, Al Ittihad, in Tripoli. Politically, he kept a low profile until 2020, when he founded the Libya Al Muskakbal (Libya Future) movement, dedicated to encouraging reconciliation across a shattered political landscape.

Supporters said he is a good choice as prime minister because he is non-ideological, focusing on technocratic solutions to Libya’s problems.

He has listed his priorities in office as national reconciliation, fixing Libya’s chronic shortage of power stations and ensuring aid reaches far-flung regions.

He said his aim is to form a Cabinet “composed of technocrats and represents all the colours, tribes and regions of Libya”.

Whether he gets the chance to do so may depend on the result of a UN investigation into corruption allegations within the body that elected him, the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

The LPDF was created by the UN in October to create the Government of National Unity (GNU), an interim government tasked with keeping the peace until the country is ready for elections for a permanent government in December.

But almost from the start, LPDF meetings were dogged by allegations of corruption.

On November 19, a letter signed by 56 of the 75 LPDF members addressed to the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres complained of corrupt practices.

Then, on November 23, acting UN Libya envoy Stephanie Williams announced an investigation of allegations that money had been offered to bribe some LPDF members to vote for certain candidates.

The investigation was handed to the UN’s Panel of Experts, which is supervised by the UN Security Council.

Ms Williams said that if bribery allegations were proven, the UN may impose sanctions on the individuals concerned.

Promising transparency, she said: "As soon as we have any information with regard to these allegations, you will be the first to know."

While the UN panel investigated, the LPDF process to choose a new government continued, culminating on February 6 when by majority vote it chose Mr Dbeibah as prime minister, along with a three-strong presidency.

Meanwhile, the Panel of Experts finished its report and sent it to the Security Council, which is scheduled to review it this month.

A copy of the report was obtained at the weekend by the AFP news agency.

The report said two unnamed people met with LPDF delegates and "offered bribes of between $150,000 and $200,000 to at least three participants if they committed to vote for Dbeibah as PM”.