Fathi Bashagha’s declaration as prime minister aggravates a power struggle with the administration of Abdulhamid Al Dbeibah
Fathi Bashagha. —PA
Libya’s parliament on Tuesday approved a new government, but the incumbent prime minister rejected the vote and vowed not to cede power, raising the risk of fighting between armed factions or territorial partition between rival administrations.
The parliament speaker’s declaration of Fathi Bashagha as prime minister after a televised vote escalates a power struggle with the administration of Abdulhamid Al Dbeibah, who was installed last year through a government-backed process. UN.
Opposing armed groups have mobilized in the capital Tripoli in recent weeks and foreign forces, including from Turkey and Russia, which have backed rival warring factions, remain in the country.
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It is unclear whether the crisis will ignite armed conflict, but it leaves Libya without a unified government, with major political and military forces bitterly divided and without a clear path forward.
Bashagha said he had made arrangements with ‘security and military authorities’ to install his government in Tripoli, but armed groups said they opposed his installation as prime minister, who is backed by the commander Eastern Khalifa Haftar.
The crisis signals a return to the division of Libya between rival governments based in the east and the west. With Haftar holding most of the oil facilities, another blockade of the country’s crude exports of 1.3 million barrels a day is also in the offing.
In previous years of division, the central bank and the National Oil Corp were linked to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, but operated on the front line. The central bank governor is seen as an ally of Dbeibah.
“The most likely option is a return to two governments, neither of which will have as much legitimacy, but only one of which will control the central bank,” said Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
Bashagha’s large Cabinet with 35 members reflects the extensive negotiations and pledges of positions needed to win the support of a majority of MPs and the diverse interests they represent.
Speaker of Parliament Aguila Saleh said the new government had been approved by 92 of the 101 members present in the chamber on Tuesday, compared to 132 who installed Dbeibah a year ago.
Dbeibah’s government disputed Saleh’s account of Tuesday’s session, with some members saying their votes were cast while they weren’t there, raising questions about its validity.
“The formal and legal aspects still matter, but much of what comes next will have to be determined by force,” said Libya researcher Jalel Harchaoui, adding that the armed groups that dominate Tripoli are divided over the crisis.
Libya has seen little peace or security since the NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and it was divided after 2014 between parallel warring administrations in the east and west.
The United Nations backed a ceasefire and peace process after an eastern offensive against Tripoli failed in 2020, with most parties in Libya publicly backing Dbeibah’s interim unity government and planning elections for December 2021.
After the election was canceled shortly before voting was due to take place amid disputes over rules, parliament moved to take control of the political process and replace Dbeibah’s government.
The parliament, which was elected in 2014 and overwhelmingly sided with the east in the civil war, said Dbeibah’s government expired when elections were not held.
Parliament’s critics, including Dbeibah, accuse him of sabotaging the December elections and working to ensure he can stay in office indefinitely, he accuses of denying.
The United Nations and foreign powers that recognized Dbeibah’s government when it was installed a year ago have avoided any definitive pronouncement that the administration should now be considered legitimate, and instead pushed for a quick election.