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Libyan parliament spokesman declares Bashagha new PM after rival withdraws

Published: Updated:

The parliament of war-torn Libya on Thursday appointed a former interior minister as prime minister, a challenge to interim premier Abdulhamid Dbeibah’s administration.

“The House of Representatives unanimously approved Fathi Bashagha to head the government,” the parliament’s spokesman Abdullah Bliheg said in a tweet.

The move threatens to spark a new power struggle between the eastern-based assembly and Dbeibah’s administration based in Tripoli, in western Libya.

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The tycoon, appointed a year ago as part of United Nations-led peace efforts, has vowed only to hand power to a government produced by the ballot box.

His administration had a mandate to lead the country to elections on December 24, but they were cancelled amid bitter divisions over their legal basis and the candidacies of several controversial figures.

Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, who like Dbeibah and Bashagha had been a presidential candidate, has since spearheaded efforts to replace the unity government.

The assembly had considered seven candidates to lead the administration, but shortly before Thursday’s confirmation vote, Saleh had announced that Bashagha’s only remaining contender, former interior ministry official Khaled al-Bibass, had withdrawn from the race.

The live television feed cut just before the vote took place.

In a televised address on Tuesday, Dbeibah had vowed he would “accept no new transitional phase or parallel authority” and declared he would only hand over power to an elected government.

Both Bashagha and Dbeibah have the support of rival armed groups in the Libyan capital.

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.

Thursday’s vote threatens a repeat of a 2014 schism which saw two parallel governments emerge.

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