Libya’s new PM lists two options to win confidence vote

The premier has until March 19 to win approval for his cabinet, before tackling the giant task of unifying Libya’s fractured institutions and leading the transition up to December 24 polls.

Thursday 25/02/2021
Libya’s new prime minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, talks during celebrations commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2011 revolution in Tripoli, February 17, 2021. (REUTERS)
Libya’s new prime minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, talks during celebrations commemorating the 10th anniversary of the 2011 revolution in Tripoli, February 17, 2021. (REUTERS)

TRIPOLI – Libyan Prime Minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah threatened to resort to the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to win confidence for his government, in light of ongoing divisions within the House of Representatives.

Dbeibah’s threat comes as observers say he is eager to secure approval for his government in parliament in order to gain constitutional legitimacy and international support. However, divisions within parliament threaten to stall the vote on Dbeibah’s cabinet, putting the legislative branch’s role to the test.

Observers also say that Dbeibah’s position on the matter, which he expressed on Tuesday evening on Twitter, is part of his efforts to pressure MPs to end their divisions.

After holding a consultative session with a number of parliament members in the capital, Tripoli, Dbeibah wrote on Twitter: “We have two options for the approval of the government lineup. If the parliament fails to reach consensus, then we will resort to the second option,” he said without giving further details.

Dbeibah apparently wanted to send a message to deputies who are trying to pressure him to include candidates affiliated with their political parties and blocs in government in exchange for their vote of confidence. In a message to those deputies, the PM-designate hinted that he could resort to the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to secure confidence for his government.

Dbeibah’s tweet coincided with continuing consultations to finalise the cabinet lineup before the February 26 deadline set by the forum. This comes amid warnings about recycling old political faces, naming some of them in the new cabinet lineup.

— Tough task —

Dbeibah is set to name a transitional government Thursday tasked with unifying the war-torn nation and leading it to elections in December.

Dbeibah, himself selected earlier this month in a UN-sponsored process, will deliver his line-up to Libya’s presidential council before it is submitted to parliament for approval at a venue and date that have yet to be agreed, a member of his office said late Wednesday.

Libya last week marked 10 years since the start of its 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime ruler Muammar Gadhafi, plunging the country into a decade of violence and political turmoil.

Today, the oil-rich North African nation is in a middle of a transition to bridge two rival administrations and rein in countless militias.

Emadeddin Badi, an analyst at the Geneva-based Global Initiative, warned that Dbeibah faces a rough ride ahead.

While his appointment “temporarily” resulted in support across Libya, he said, those left out “will undoubtedly mobilise to hinder support for his administration.”

The new team aims to replace a Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, and a parallel cabinet in eastern Libya backed by military commander Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar and parliament.

It faces the daunting challenge of addressing the grievances of ordinary Libyans, hit by a dire economic crisis, soaring unemployment, wretched public services and crippling inflation.

Dbeibah, a 61-year-old engineer and businessman who once held posts under Gadhafi, was selected on February 5 by a forum of 75 Libyan delegates at UN-led talks in Switzerland.

An interim three-member presidency council — selected alongside Dbeibah — is to head the unity administration.

The premier has until March 19 to win approval for his cabinet, before tackling the giant task of unifying Libya’s fractured institutions and leading the transition up to December 24 polls.

– Critics at home, foreign powers –

Dbeibah has said his selection of ministers was based on “criteria of competence, diversity and inclusion.”

Under a UN roadmap, at least 30% of top government posts — ministers and deputy ministers — must be filled by women and young candidates.

The UN Special Envoy for Libya Jan Kubis held talks Wednesday on the telephone with Dbeibah, the UN mission said.

Dbeibah has to win over not only critics at home, but foreign powers with competing interests in Libya.

The GNA, backed by Turkey, has been pitted against forces loyal to Haftar in the east, backed by Egypt, Russia and the UAE.

Significantly, Dbeibah’s first visit abroad was to Egypt, Libya’s powerful neighbour. He has also held talks with the influential speaker of parliament, Aguila Saleh.

The House of Representatives, which never recognised the legitimacy of the GNA, is itself split.

In 2019, 50 deputies staged a boycott in protest of Saleh’s support for an aborted bid by Haftar’s forces to seize Tripoli that was followed by a UN-brokered ceasefire last October.

Now deputies can’t even decide where to convene for the vote on Dbeibah’s team.

Saleh wants to hold the session in Sirte, half-way between east and west, but the majority of lawmakers prefer Sabratha, west of Tripoli.

If a quorum for parliament is not met, the 75 delegates who took part in the Switzerland talks would vote for the executive.

Badi remains pessimistic.

“What we are likely to witness is a war by other means – jockeying over foreign support, sovereign positions, ministerial portfolios… This politicking will… likely culminate in another conflict,” the analyst said.