Libyan parliament moves towards vote on new prime minister

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Libya’s eastern-based parliament met on Thursday for a vote on a new interim prime minister, a move likely to intensify the country’s political struggles, with the incumbent vowing to remain in office.

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A source close to Interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah said he survived an assassination attempt overnight when bullets struck his car hours before the parliamentary vote, but there was no immediate official or public statement to confirm that.

The parliament is seeking to take control of Libya’s political future after the collapse of an election that was planned for December, saying Dbeibah’s interim government is no longer valid and pushing any new election back until next year.

Dbeibah said on Tuesday he would cede power only to an elected government and rejected the parliament’s moves to replace him.

Analysts say the result of Thursday’s moves could be a return to the years of division that seemed set to end last March with the installation of Dbeibah’s unity government.

Before that time, parallel governments operated in western and eastern Libya, backed by different warring factions.

However, while rival armed forces have mobilized inside Tripoli in recent weeks, analysts say the political crisis will not necessarily translate into fighting soon.

The UN Libya adviser and Western countries have said al-Dbeibah’s Government of National Unity remains valid and have urged the parliament to focus instead on bringing elections forward.

Nearly 3 million Libyans signed up to vote in the December election, and the political jostling and delays that have followed have infuriated and frustrated many of them.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh said some 132 lawmakers had joined the session on Thursday, enough for a quorum, and television pictures appeared to show a mostly full chamber.

The person parliament most likely to choose to replace al-Dbeibah is former interior minister Fathi Bashagha, who appeared before the chamber on Monday to present his candidacy.

If the parliament does select Bashagha through a vote, it would not necessarily immediately trigger a confrontation with al-Dbeibah and the GNU, however, as it may take some time for Bashagha to form a government acceptable to a majority of lawmakers.

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