UN voices concern over vote on new Libyan prime minister

The United Nations has voiced concern over reports that a vote in Libya’s parliament to install a new government, which risks triggering new fighting or a return to territorial division, “fell short of the expected standards”.

The UN secretary-general’s spokesperson said in an emailed statement there were reports that Tuesday’s vote did not meet standards of transparency and procedure, and of acts of intimidation before the session.

The parliament plans to swear in Fathi Bashagha as prime minister on Thursday though the incumbent, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, refuses to hand over power, with both sides having some military support in the capital.

The United Nations is instead focused on renewing its push for elections, the spokesperson said, adding that UN Libya adviser Stephanie Williams would soon invite the parliament and an opposing political body, the High Council of State, for talks.

The position of international powers will be key in the coming tussle for control of Libya’s government and political process, with analysts pointing to the risks of another full-blown war or another split between warring administrations.

Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising removed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The country was subsequently split between rival administrations based in Tripoli in the west and a Tobruk-based parliament in the east.

Neither the political nor the military coalitions that are crystallising now exactly match those that fought from 2014 until a 2020 truce, but any new conflict would again likely pit eastern forces against a combination of western groups.

Dbeibah’s government was put in place a year ago through a UN-backed peace process aimed at resolving political problems through an election last year, but the vote did not take place amid arguments over the constitutional framework that would govern the vote.

Since then, the parliament has tried to take control over the process by saying Dbeibah’s term had expired and setting a course towards a referendum on an altered constitution and then elections in 2023.

“There will be no use of force, neither by us nor the existing government,” Bashagha said in an interview.

“Tomorrow the oath will be taken before the House of Representatives and then I will go to Tripoli,” he said, adding there would be arrangements to ensure a “normal and smooth” transition.

The parliament was elected in 2014 and mostly backed military commander Khalifa Haftar’s eastern forces, which laid partial siege to Tripoli from 2019-20, destroying much of the city in an attempt to wrest it from the then-internationally recognised government.

BBC