Libya's parliament to appoint new PM, increasing tensions
CAIRO (AP) — Libya’s parliament said Monday it will name a new prime minister this week to head the transitional government, a move that will likely lead to parallel administrations in the already chaotic nation.
Two candidates — former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga and Minister-Counsellor Khalid al-Baibas — have submitted their bids to replace Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah. They appeared in a parliamentary session Monday in the eastern city of Tobruk to present their plans.
Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said a vote to name one of them as prime minister will take place Thursday, following consultations with the High Council of State, an advisory body based in the capital of Tripoli.
The effort to replace Dbeibah stems from Libya’s failure to hold its first presidential election during his watch. It has been a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean nation.
Originally scheduled for Dec. 24, the presidential vote was postponed over disputes between rival factions on laws governing the elections and controversial presidential hopefuls. Lawmakers have argued that the mandate of Dbeibah’s government ended on Dec. 24.
Dbeibah has repeatedly said he and his government will remain in power until “real elections” take place. He has accused Saleh, the speaker, of fueling the division in the country.
The prime minister, who hails from the powerful western city of Misrata, also urged the crafting of a new constitution before heading to elections.
Saleh, the influential speaker, said lawmakers adopted a roadmap to hold the presidential election within 14 months after agreeing on constitutional amendments.
He said a parliamentary committee will hold consultations with the High Council of State to craft the needed amendments within a week. Libya is governed by a constitutional declaration since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising.
Khaled al-Mashri, head of the council, said members have agreed with the parliament to adopt a defined roadmap for elections even as a new government is appointed.
“We approved the parliament’s demand to change the government, but it is necessary to determine the constitutional path for the elections first," he told a news conference Sunday in Tripoli.
The parliament’s move to appoint a new government is a setback to the U.N. mission in the country, which advocates for rescheduling the presidential vote as early as June.
U.N. deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Monday negotiations were ongoing with Libyan parties to try to avoid a return to “the sort of discord and disarray that has marked the past decade.”
“We do implore the Libyan parties to take a look back at what the last years have brought and see in that, that there’s really no future to that approach,” he said when asked about concerns that Libya could return to rival political authorities.
The move also increases concerns that the country could once again slide into armed conflict. Western governments have urged that the current government remain in place until the vote is held to avoid chaos and confusion.
Armed groups in western Libya have already announced their objection to changing the government. They called for local and international parties to help agree on a roadmap with a specific timeframe to make changes to the constitution, achieve national reconciliation and unify the military.
Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from Misrata, was appointed prime minister in February last year as part of a U.N.-brokered, Western-backed political process. His government’s main task was to steer the deeply divided country toward national reconciliation and lead it through elections.
Libya has been wrecked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising toppled then killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The country was for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by militias and foreign governments.
The presidential vote has faced many deep-rooted challenges, which remain unsolved. Those include controversial candidates and disputed laws governing elections as well as the deep mistrust between rival factions.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer contributed from the United Nations.