A United Nations-led Libya forum has voted on an interim government, choosing Mohammed al-Menfi as presidency council head and Abdul Hamid Dbeibah as prime minister.
The election of a unified administration aims at ending a division in Libya that has lasted for more than five years, with two rival governments, and their affiliated armed groups, running different parts of the North African country.
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Seventy-four members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), which includes Libyans from different political backgrounds, elected a list that includes the prime minister and the head of the Presidential Council.
“On behalf of the United Nations I am pleased to witness this historic moment,” said UN acting Libya envoy Stephanie Williams, who was interrupted by applause.
The winning list got 39 votes, which is more than the required 50 percent plus one of the 73 valid votes. One voter abstained.
None of the four slates – each including a candidate for prime minister and three for a presidency council – secured the 60 percent threshold of votes needed to win outright in the first ballot.
The two slates with the most votes went to a runoff vote.
The list that got the highest number of votes in the first round earlier on Friday included Aguila Saleh, the politically savvy speaker of Libya’s eastern parliament, who ran for president of the Presidential Council.
The same list includes Fathi Bashagha, the powerful interior minister in the western government, who was hoping to seize the premiership.
Since Monday, members of the LPDF have gathered near Geneva to listen to presentations from the 45 candidates.
Almost all candidates committed to holding the elections on time and vowed to work on national reconciliation and help displaced Libyans
get back to their homes.
Addressing the LPDF earlier this week, Dbeibah said he wanted to focus on uniting and restructuring the country’s military and set up
a ministry for national reconciliation and reparation.
“Libyan people want to live,” he said.
The selection of an interim government is part of a UN peacemaking process based around holding national presidential and parliamentary elections in December.
Libya has been engulfed in chaos since a NATO-backed intervention ended Muammar Gaddafi’s four-decade rule in 2011.
Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina, reporting from the capital Tripoli, said the hope among Libyans was that the candidates will be able to unify their governments before the elections.
“In the last week, we’ve seen participants in the Libyan political dialogue forum and heard from candidates on their vision and road map that will lead to elections later this year,” he said.
“Hopefully, this new transitional government can sort of unite and bring about a reconciliation process that will lead to elections later this year.”
Political process criticised
All candidates for the new government have undertaken to hold national presidential and parliamentary elections on December 24, in which they will not stand for office, and to appoint women to 30 percent of senior government roles.
However, some Libyans have been critical of a process that they view as being managed from abroad and that they fear will allow existing power-mongers to cling to their influence.
“War and tension will come back sooner or later so long as the armed groups have power,” said Abdulatif al-Zorgani, a 45-year old state employee in Tripoli.
The latest UN process emerged from a Berlin conference last year and gathered pace in the autumn after renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based forces were repelled from a 14-month assault on Tripoli.
It has also involved a military ceasefire but not all its terms have been met – a sign of continued mistrust on both sides and internal fractures within both camps.
Turkey welcomes transitional leadership
Turkey has hailed the announcement of Libya’s transitional unity government.
Ankara said “the opportunity” provided by the decision would help ensure “the territorial integrity and the political unity” of Libya.
Turkey has deployed troops in Libya under a military accord signed with the GNA which the Ankara parliament extended for 18 months in December.
“We are delighted with the appointment of a prime minister and a presidential council following the elections carried out through the inter-Libyan dialogue,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
“Turkey will continue to offer the new executive its support for the holding of elections scheduled for the end of the year… and for the restoration of security in Libya,” the statement added.