Libya's embattled PM says replacing him could trigger war

AP , Tuesday 22 Feb 2022

Libya's embattled prime minister is warning that the appointment of a new interim government could set off war and chaos in a Mediterranean country mired for a decade in turmoil.

Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah attends the graduation ceremony of a batch of Libyan army
Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah attends the graduation ceremony of a batch of Libyan army cadets, in Tripoli, Libya, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. AP

Addressing Libyans late Monday, Prime Minister Abdul Hamdi Dbeibah, who was sacked sacked by the parliment earlier this month, reiterated his insistence that he will hand over power only to an elected government. He mapped out a likely unrealistic plan to hold elections in June.

Dbeibah called any plan to install an interim government "reckless'' and a "farce'' that could lead to more wars. He was referring to ongoing efforts by the House of Representatives to confirm a new government chaired by Prime Minister-designate Fathi Bashaga.

"I will not accept by whatever form to hand over (power) to chaos,'' he said. An election, he said, "is the sole solution.''

The east-based parliament earlier this month named Bashaga, a powerful former interior minister from the western city of Misrata, to form a new interim government. He has to submit his Cabinet to the parliament this week. Bashagha's appointment was part of a roadmap set elections within the next 14 months.

In his eight-page speech, Dbeibah mentioned "war'' or "wars'' eight times. He described the parliament's move as "a failed manoeuvre'' that will trigger "war and chaos.''

He said he engaged in negotiations with his rivals to avert the current stalemate, but his efforts failed. He accused one rival, commander Khalifa Haftar, of inflaming "political chaos'' in the country.

There was no immediate comment from Haftar, who led a failed offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli, in 2019 from rival militias.

Dbeibah, who like Bashaga hails from Misrata, proposed a four-point roadmap to a simultaneous parliamentary vote and a referendum on constitutional amendments late in June, to be followed by a presidential election after the new parliament crafts a permanent constitution. He did not offer a timeframe for the presidential election.

The presidential vote was originally planned for Dec. 24, but it was postponed over disputes between rival factions on laws governing the elections and controversial presidential hopefuls. Lawmakers have argued that the mandate of Dbeibah's government ended on Dec. 24.

In an attempt to court Libyans tired of war and chaos, Dbeibah appealed for what he called "a true national movement'' to push for elections.

Libya couldn't manage to hold elections since its disputed legislative vote in 2014, which caused the county to split for years between rival administrations, each backed by armed militias and foreign governments.

The oil-rich North African nation has been wrecked by conflict since the NATO-backed uprising toppled then killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

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