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Parliament in Libya to vote for new premier

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TRIPOLI: The parliament in Libya will name a new prime minister to head the transitional government this week, raising concerns over the possibility of a new power struggle.

Two candidates, former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga and Minister-Counsellor Khalid 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 Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said a vote to name one of them as prime minister will take place on Thursday following consultations with the High Council of State, an advisory body based in the capital of Tripoli.

The parliament’s move to appoint a new government is a setback to the UN mission in the country, which advocates for holding a presidential vote initially scheduled for December 24 last year that was postponed following disputes over laws governing the elections and presidential candidacies.

The move also increases concerns that Thursday’s vote could see a repeat of a 2014 schism that saw two parallel governments emerge, leading the country to slide into armed conflict.

UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said on Monday that negotiations were ongoing with Libyan parties to try to avoid a return to “the sort of discord and disarray that has marked the past decade”.

“We do implore the Libyan parties to take a look back at what the last years have brought and see in that, that there’s really no future to that approach,” Haq said when asked about concerns that Libya could return to rival political authorities.

Dbeibah has repeatedly said he and his government will remain in power until “real elections” take place, but some legislators have argued that his mandate ended on December 24, 2021.

He has accused Saleh, who has led efforts to have him replaced, of fuelling the division in the country and urged the drafting of a new constitution before elections.

Saleh said lawmakers adopted a roadmap to hold the presidential election within 14 months after agreeing on constitutional amendments.

A parliamentary committee is scheduled to hold consultations with the High Council of State to craft the needed amendments within a week, he added.

Khaled al-Mishri, head of the council, said members have agreed with the parliament to adopt a defined roadmap for elections even as a new government is appointed.

“We approved the parliament’s demand to change the government, but it is necessary to determine the constitutional path for the elections first,” he told a news conference in Tripoli on Sunday.

Armed groups in western Libya have announced their objection to changing the government and called for local and international parties to help agree on a roadmap with a specific timeframe to make changes to the constitution, achieve national reconciliation and unify the military.

Libya has been governed by a constitutional declaration since the 2011 Arab Spring uprising. 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 presidential vote has faced many deep-rooted challenges, including deep mistrust between rival factions.

Libya has been wracked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising toppled then killed long time dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The country was for years split between rival administrations in the east and west, each supported by militias and foreign governments.

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