Libyan joint operations forces have rallied in the country’s capital to support Abdul Hamid Dbeibah’s claim to legitimacy as the head of the Libyan government as the country’s political schism deepens.
On Saturday, joint armed forces from Misrata, Khoms and Zlitan converged on Tripoli’s Martyrs Square with about 300 armed vehicles.
On Thursday, the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) parliament in eastern Libya had named Fathi Bashagha the country’s new prime minister.
Incumbent PM Dbeibeh rejected the move, vowing to remain in his post until national elections are held.
“Of course, the reason for our presence here in the first place is to preserve the democratic path in Libya. We joined the revolution in 2011 because of the rule of the military, we do not accept the rule of the military. We are here to defend international legitimacy, and our goal is to preserve legitimacy,” Colonel Ibrahim Mohamed, Field Commander of the Joint Operations Force, said.
Earlier on Saturday, the Joint Operations Force said in a statement that their move came by order of Dbeibah calling them “to secure the government headquarters and key sites in the capital”.
Dbeibah’s administration had a mandate to lead the country to elections on December 24, 2021, but polls were cancelled amid bitter divisions over their legal basis and the candidacies of several controversial figures.
The construction tycoon was appointed a year ago as part of United Nations-led peace efforts and has vowed he would “accept no new transitional phase or parallel authority” and would only hand over power to an elected government.
Bashagha and Dbeibah, both from Misrata and both candidates for the aborted presidential poll, have the support of rival armed groups in the west.
On Friday, main streets and squares in Tripoli and Misrata witnessed massive demonstrations rejecting the HoR decision to establish Bashaga’s new transitional government.
The demonstrators demanded the overthrow of the HoR and the High Council of State (HCS), and called for maintaining the National Unity Government, led by Dbeibah.
They also demanded that elections would be held on time in accordance with the Geneva Agreement.
Meanwhile, the head of the Tripoli-based body, Khalid Mechri, accused Dbeibah’s government of “fuelling a campaign against the parliament and the HCS”.
The UN said it still recognises Dbeibeh after the HoR vote.
Libya has seen a decade of turmoil since a NATO-backed revolt toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, leaving a patchwork of armed groups vying for control over an oil-rich country riven by regional divisions.
Experts have warned that Thursday’s vote threatens a repeat of a 2014 schism that saw two parallel governments emerge.