Africa Libyan crisis deepens as Tobruk-based parliament chooses new premier

Libyan crisis deepens as Tobruk-based parliament chooses new premier

The crisis in Libya has deepened with the Tobruk-based House of Representatives (HoR) parliament in the country’s east choosing former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha as prime minister last Thursday, while current Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh has vowed to continue in the post. 

The failure to hold discussions on the legitimacy of Libya’s Government of National Unity, originally scheduled on Dec. 24, has led to differences of opinion in the west of the country as well.

Arriving at Tripoli’s Mitiga Airport late Thursday, Bashagha was greeted by a group of supporters. No legal sanctions were imposed on him and he did not encounter any obstacles.

Dbeibeh on Friday went to Misrata, his and Bashagha’s hometown located east of Tripoli, and held talks with local administrations and some military officials there.

Following that, it was announced that a military force from Misrata would head toward Tripoli on Saturday to bolster the legitimacy of the state and force the parties to hold presidential and parliamentary elections.

Later, a written statement from the 21 brigades in Misrata, reacted to the election of Bashagha as prime minister. The statement said the HoR parliament acting alone on the political and constitutional process is unacceptable.

On Saturday, around 200 heavily armed military vehicles, including two Turkish-made Kirpi, arrived in Tripoli from Misrata in the evening. A group that introduced themselves as the “Libyan army support force” in Martyrs’ Square condemned the decision of the HoR parliament to elect Bashagha as the new prime minister.

The group denounced “the state of absurdity that contradicts the outcomes of the political dialogue forum and wants the country to enter new transitional stages.”

Decisions taken in the House of Representatives in its last meeting in Tobruk were not “in accordance with fair and transparent procedures,” it said.

It voiced “strong support for parliamentary elections, the referendum on the constitution, and presidential elections as soon as possible”.

Evaluation from Libyan streets

Khaled al-Mishri, president of the High Council of the State of Libya, said the evaluation meeting, which should be held after the election of the new prime minister, was postponed and they did not take a final position on the issue. Al-Mishri said he would accept the objections in the next session of the council.

Evaluations from the Libyan streets indicate that if al-Mishri had also announced support for Bashagha as prime minister, the Dbeibeh government would have fallen.

Following the remarks of al-Mishri, Dbeibeh, who does not look kindly on the fact that the elections will be held shortly, said he would change his stance and make a statement on Feb. 17 on the elections coinciding with the anniversary of the revolution.

The HoR parliament had announced that Khaled Bibas, who was Bashagha’s only rival in the elections, had withdrawn from the race.

However, Bibas denied having withdrawn and accused Libyan parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh of having lied by announcing his withdrawal. 

Different scenarios

Different scenarios are emerging regarding the situation in the west of the country.

The first scenario is that the Dbeibeh government will continue to work but Bashagha also establishes a parallel government.

In this case, the possibility of Bashagha forming the government in Sirte, the hometown of ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi, to avoid the possibility of armed conflict is being discussed because some names, especially those who supported the eastern part of the country, had expressed their opinion about moving the capital to Sirte.

The possibility of Dbeibeh withdrawing from the race is also being discussed. But it is considered a weak possibility. Dbeibeh is seen as the prime minister who has served and invested the most in the country in a year since protests that started in 2011. He has quite high popular support in the west of the country.

The third possibility is that Mohamed al-Manfi, the chairman of the Libyan Presidential Council, dissolves the HoR parliament, the Libyan State Supreme Council and the government and declares a state of emergency.

It is considered difficult for former ambassador al-Manfi and his assistants to show the will to take such a decision, and even if they do, the stable environment in the west of the country may deteriorate again.

Meanwhile, there is also the possibility that a third figure other than Dbeibeh and Bashagha may form the government. However, there is no prominent political name on the horizon that all parties can accept, at least for now.

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