Libya's new PM outlines 'vision' of his government

Rim Taher
·4 min read

Libya's prime minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah on Thursday said he had submitted a "vision" for an interim government, as he seeks to lead the North African nation to elections in December.

Dbeibah was selected early this month in a UN-sponsored inter-Libyan dialogue, the latest internationally backed bid to salvage the country from a decade of conflict and fragmented political fiefdoms.

But it was unclear how far progress has been made towards naming a cabinet.

"We submitted today a proposition for a structure and a working vision of a national unity government along with the selection criteria for (that) team... to the speaker of parliament," Dbeibah told reporters in Tripoli on Thursday evening.

He said the submission was in line with the deadline set by a UN roadmap, which requires at least 30 percent of top government posts to be filled by women and young candidates.

He also told reporters that the names of proposed ministers will be disclosed in parliament during a vote of confidence for his line-up.

But a statement on his Facebook page late Thursday said that he had not yet sent a list of names.

The premier has until March 19 to win approval for a cabinet, before tackling the giant task of unifying Libya's proliferating institutions and leading the transition up to December 24 polls.

Dbeibah said his "main objective is to bring Libyans together and to make the competence of ministers a primary criteria".

"We received more than 3,000 applications but were only able to study 2,300 of them," Dbeibah said.

- Rough ride ahead -

Libya is commemorating 10 years since the start of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, plunging the country into a decade of violence and political turmoil.

Libyans filed through the capital Tripoli waving the national flag on Thursday as part of celebrations marking the anniversary.

The oil-rich North African nation has in recent years been split between two rival administrations, as well as countless militias.

Emadeddin Badi, an analyst at the Geneva-based Global Initiative, warns that Dbeibah faces a rough ride ahead.

While his appointment "temporarily" resulted in support across Libya, he said, those left out "will undoubtedly mobilise to hinder support for his administration."

If approved, a new cabinet would replace a Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, and a parallel administration in eastern Libya backed by military strongman Khalifa Hafter.

It faces the daunting challenge of addressing the grievances of ordinary Libyans, hit by a dire economic crisis, soaring unemployment, wretched public services and crippling inflation.

Dbeibah, a 61-year-old engineer and businessman who once held posts under Kadhafi, was selected on February 5 by a forum of 75 Libyan delegates at the UN-led talks in Switzerland.

An interim three-member presidency council -- selected alongside Dbeibah -- is to head the unity administration.

- Critics at home, foreign powers -

Dbeibah must win over not only critics at home, but foreign powers with competing interests in Libya.

The GNA, backed by Turkey, has been pitted against forces loyal to Haftar in the east, backed by Egypt, Russia and the UAE.

Significantly, Dbeibah's first visit abroad was to Egypt, Libya's powerful neighbour. He has also held talks with the influential speaker of parliament, Aguila Saleh.

That parliament, which never recognised the legitimacy of the GNA, is itself split.

In 2019, 50 deputies staged a boycott in protest at Saleh's support for an aborted bid by Haftar's forces to seize Tripoli, before a UN-brokered ceasefire last October.

Now deputies can't even decide where to convene for the vote on Dbeibah's team.

Saleh wants to hold the session in Sirte, half-way between east and west, but the majority of lawmakers prefer Sabratha, west of Tripoli.

If a quorum for parliament is not met, the 75 delegates who took part in the Switzerland talks would vote for the executive.

Badi remains pessimistic.

"What we are likely to witness is a war by other means -- jockeying over foreign support, sovereign positions, ministerial portfolios... This politicking will... likely culminate in another conflict," the analyst said.

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