Libya's interim Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah on Tuesday defied attempts by parliament to replace him, setting up a potential showdown between his western-based government and the assembly in the east.
Dbeibah was named interim leader last year under a UN-backed process aimed at helping the North African country recover from the decade of chaos that followed the ouster of dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
His government had a mandate to lead the country to elections on December 24.
But the polls were cancelled, and parliament has begun interviewing candidates to replace Dbeibah, a process that could spark new east-west power struggles in the troubled nation.
In a televised address on Tuesday, Dbeibah vowed he would resist any attempts by the parliament, which is based in the eastern city of Tobruk, to replace his Tripoli-based government.
“I will accept no new transitional phase or parallel authority,” he said, declaring that his government would only hand over power to “an elected government”.
He launched a tirade against what he called the “hegemonic political class”, accusing it of “stealing the dreams of 2.5 million voters” who had registered to vote in the election.
He further accused parliament of passing laws without meeting the legal quorum for votes.
The UN, western powers and even some members of parliament have called for Dbeibah to stay in his role until elections, for which a new date has not yet been set.
But parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, a leader of the eastern faction who, like Dbeibah was a candidate in the presidential vote, has forged ahead with efforts to have the premier replaced.
On Thursday, parliament members are scheduled to pick between two candidates: powerful former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, 59, and outsider Khaled al-Bibass, 51, a former official in the interior ministry.
Libya has suffered through a decade of conflict since the 2011 revolt that toppled Kadhafi and left a patchwork of militias vying for control over an oil-rich country riven by deep tribal and regional divisions.
Thursday's vote could see a repeat of a 2014 schism which saw two parallel governments emerge.
The parliament has also adopted a “roadmap” towards elections, which looks set to delay the polls further.
It says they must take place within 14 months of an agreement on another divisive issue -- a new constitutional declaration.
Dbeibah said Tuesday that if no new date for elections was set he would launch consultations on “a plan of action” including elections and an amendment of the country's transitional constitution.