Dbeibah is transitional PM as Libyan factions choose interim government

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Libyan delegates at UN-facilitated talks on Friday made the surprise choice of Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah as transitional prime minister, along with a three-member presidency council, to govern the war-ravaged North African country until December elections.

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Mohammad Younes Menfi will become the new president of the presidency council in the unity administration, following the vote held outside Geneva and announced by United Nations envoy Stephanie Williams.

THe delegates from warring factions selected four leaders to guide the North African country through to national elections in December,

The step is seen as a major — if uncertain — step toward unifying a nation with two separate governments in the east and west.

In what could become a landmark achievement to end one of the intractable conflicts left behind by the Arab Spring a decade ago, the 74 delegates chose a list of candidates in a UN-hosted process aimed to give balance to regional powers and various political and economic interests.

Men watch the elections to choose the new interim government on a TV screen at a cafe in Benghazi, Libya, on February 5, 2021. (Reuters)
Men watch the elections to choose the new interim government on a TV screen at a cafe in Benghazi, Libya, on February 5, 2021. (Reuters)

Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat with a support base in the country’s east, was chosen to head the three-person Presidential Council.

Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a powerful businessman backed by western tribes, was chosen as interim prime minister.

The UN process, known as the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, was aimed at choosing an interim authority that will oversee Libya as part of an effort to rebuild state institutions and lead to national elections on December 24.

Menfi’s list was elected in a runoff as none of four lists initially proposed secured the required 60 percent of votes from the delegates in the first round.

The voting was taking place under the mediation of the UN secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, in hopes of bringing stability to a country that has been largely lawless since Moammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and another in the west of the country, each backed by a vast array of militias. In April 2019, Khalifa Hafter, a military commander allied with the eastern government, launched an offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli. His campaign failed after 14 months of fighting. In October, the UN convinced both parties to sign a cease-fire agreement and embark on a political dialogue.

Each of the two final lists has candidates for the three-member Presidency Council and the post of prime minister.

The list that ultimately lost in the second round of voting was the one that got the highest number of votes in the first round earlier Friday. It included Aguila Saleh, the politically savvy speaker of Libya’s eastern parliament who ran for president of the Presidential Council. The same list included Fathi Bashagha, the powerful interior minister in the western government who hopes to seize the premiership.

Saleh and Bashaga’s list was believed to be backed by foreign countries including the US, Turkey and Egypt.

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