Marilise De Buck
A standoff between two rival governments in Libya worsened on Thursday when the parliament in the east swore in a new administration while the incumbent refused to cede power, risking violence and division in the country.
The new prime minister, Fathi Bashagha, was approved by lawmakers from the east-based House of Representatives but the U.N. questioned the validity of the appointment. The former Prime Minister, Abdul Hamid al-Dbeibeh, refuses to hand over control and is staying in Tripoli.
This move is fueling tensions in a country which has been plagued with conflict for several years but has experienced relative peace for 18 months now.
The United Nations raised concern about the parliament’s efforts to appoint Bashagha. U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric expressed they are closely watching the developments, saying, “the ongoing political legislative process” must be transparent “and adhere to established rules and agreements.”
He also stressed the importance of maintaining the “calm and stability” that has been achieved since the October 2020 cease-fire agreement.
The main focus of the international community should be renewing the push for the election in June, which hopefully will occur with full transparency and with an established set of rules.
Bashagha’s appointment risks a return to violence and disruption in Libya, which would undo all the efforts by the United Nations and other countries to end violence over the past decade.
Libya has been wrecked with conflict since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising, which eventually ended in 2020 when the ceasefire agreement was signed. In February 2021, al-Dbeibeh was put in power through a U.N.-backed process to instill peace and security in the region, in addition he was tasked with organizing an election.
This election did not happen because of controversy surrounding the rules for an election, while the country experienced 18 months of relative peace. The appointment of Bashagha started because of the failure of al-Dbeibeh to hold a promised election in December.
The move brings controversy because of the country’s history and it is the reason for al-Dbeibeh expressing he will only hand over power to an elected government, which he plans to accomplish in June.
As the eastern based Congress swore in Bashagha as the new Prime Minister, his rival al-Dbeibeh stands strong and says he will hold a real election in June.
The United Nations questions the validity of Bashagha’s appointment. The election of Bashagha was a major blow to a decade’s worth of efforts to end chaos in Libya by the international community.