Libyan parliament interviews PM candidates, says no elections soon

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Libya’s eastern-based parliament said on Monday there would be no elections this year and it would choose a new interim prime minister on Thursday, potentially setting up a new factional struggle over control of the government.

The parliament, which has been working on a political roadmap since the collapse in December of a planned election process amid disputes over the vote’s rules and constitutional basis, voted on Monday to adopt the plan.

Libya’s parliament on Monday began hearings of hopefuls to replace interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, a process that could spark new east-west power struggles in the troubled North African nation.

Dbeibah’s government took power a year ago with a mandate to lead Libya to December elections aimed at dragging the country out of a decade of conflict.

But since the polls were indefinitely postponed amid deep divisions over their legal basis and controversial presidential candidates, parliament speaker Aguila Saleh has led efforts to have Dbeibah replaced.

Both eastern-based Saleh and Dbeibah, in the western capital Tripoli, were presidential candidates.

Dbeibah has said he will only hand power to an elected administration.

Saleh’s House of Representatives, based in eastern Libya since a violent schism in 2014, said two out of seven candidates had made it through to the final round.

Powerful former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, 59, and outsider Khaled al-Bibass, 51, a former official in the interior ministry, will face a parliamentary vote on Thursday.

Bashagha told the assembly that he wanted to unify divided state institutions, improve security and revive the country’s dismal public services. He also vowed not to stand for future elections.

Bibass said he would work to overcome the country’s divisions and fight inflation.

Thursday’s vote could see a repeat of a 2014 schism which saw two parallel governments emerge.

The parliament also adopted a “roadmap” towards elections, which looks set to delay the polls further.

It says they must take place within 14 months of an agreement on another divisive issue — a new constitutional declaration.

The assembly is not fully united, and some members have called for Dbeibah to stay in office until elections are held.

The United Nations has also called for a new date to be set for presidential polls rather than yet another transitional government.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on Monday met with the head of Libya’s High Council of State.

As Çavuşoğlu stated on Twitter, he and Khalid al-Mishri discussed the process of establishing political unity and holding elections on a constitutional basis.

Last September, al-Mishri was re-elected council chairman for a fourth one-year term.

The North African country has been mired in civil war since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi in a 2011 uprising. The bloodshed has drawn in competing Libyan factions and extremist groups as well as foreign powers.

According to a deal with the legitimate government in Libya, Turkey sent troops to shore up the United Nations-recognized government in Tripoli, while Russia and other countries including France supported the eastern-based illegitimate forces led by Khalifa Haftar.

Security sources in Ankara have several times pointed out that Turkish forces cannot be classified as foreign fighters, unlike Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, as Turkish soldiers are in the country upon an official invitation by the Libyan government.

In April 2019, Libya’s Haftar and his forces, backed by Egypt, Russia, France and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), launched an offensive to try and capture the capital, Tripoli. His 14-month campaign collapsed, and the fall of Tripoli was prevented after Turkey stepped up its military support of the United Nations-backed government.

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