Libya’s parliament is set to name a new prime minister to head the transitional government on Thursday, raising concerns over the possibility of a new power struggle.
The effort to replace interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah comes after the date for Libya’s first presidential election – scheduled for December 24 last year – came and went during his watch.
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Lawmakers argue that the mandate of Dbeibah’s government ended when the presidential election was supposed to happen: December 24. He has refused to leave.
The postponement dealt a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean nation.
The House of Representatives is scheduled to convene on Thursday to name either former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga or Minister-Counsellor Khalid al-Baibas as the new prime minister.
Bashaga and al-Baibas appeared in a parliamentary session on Monday in the eastern city of Tobruk to present their plans and submit their bids to replace Dbeibah.
Defiant prime minister
In a televised speech on Tuesday, Dbeibah said he will not hand over power, a position that could lead to a flare-up of conflicts between rival factions in the deeply divided nation.
“I will not allow new transitional periods. We will not retreat from our role in government that we pledged to the people until elections are achieved,” Dbeibah said.
He warned that naming a new prime minister would lead the country back to “division and chaos” after nearly two years of relative calm.
He called for street protests to denounce the appointment of a new transitional government.
“We will not allow this class that has been dominant for years to monopolise the scene,” he said, accusing the political class that controlled Libya for the past decade of seeking to remain in power.
Dbeibah added that he has started consultations to agree on a new roadmap to hold elections in June, the date the UN mission in Libya wants for a rescheduled vote.
However, elections are unlikely to take place then since the election commission said it needs at least eight months to prepare for a new vote.
The main challenges that led to the December 24 vote postponement also remain unsettled.
The incumbent prime minister has become a polarising figure since he announced his presidential bid, breaking his pledge not to run in elections when he was appointed.
Speaking to local media, Libyan political analyst Abdel Hakim Fanoush blamed Dbeibah as the issue holding back the presidential election.
“The announcement of his candidacy is what failed the vote in December. How could he be claiming to care about the vote?” asked Fanoush.
Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from Misrata, was appointed prime minister in February last year as part of a UN-brokered, Western-backed political process.
His government’s main task was to steer the deeply divided country towards national reconciliation and lead it through elections.
The appointment of a new prime minister could see a repeat of a 2014 schism that saw two parallel administrations emerge, leading the country to slide into armed conflict
That situation also increases the possibility of renewed fighting in a country largely ruled by armed groups with conflicting interests.
The elections were the linchpin of UN-mediated efforts to bring peace to the oil-rich North African nation.
Libya has been wracked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and 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.