Libya’s Bashagha expects to take over peacefully

Fathi Bashagha, appointed by Libya’s east as prime minister, said on Wednesday that he would not use force to take office in Tripoli despite the incumbent’s promise to retain power.

Parliament will swear in Bashagha as prime minister on Thursday, but the head of the current interim government, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, has refused to relinquish control, raising the prospect of fighting.

“It will not be used by force, either by us or the existing government,” Bashagha told Reuters in an interview.

“Tomorrow the oath will be taken before the House of Representatives and then I will go to Tripoli,” he said, adding that there would be arrangements to ensure a “normal and smooth” transition.

The struggle for control of the Libyan government following the collapse of a planned election in December threatens to return the country to conflict and division that has prevailed for much of the period since a NATO-backed revolution in 2011.

Interim Prime Minister Dbeibah was installed a year ago through a UN-backed process, saying his government remains valid and will only relinquish power after a rescheduled election he says he will hold in June.

In a televised speech on Wednesday, he accused parliament of trying to sabotage the election, saying that “what they called a government will never work in reality and will not have a seat.”

Parliament has stated that Dbeibah’s term of office expired when the December elections did not take place as planned, and the House has instead chosen Bashagha to lead a new transition with elections to follow next year.

Parliament’s position is backed by Eastern Putz general Khalifa Haftar, who waged a 14-month war against Tripoli from 2019 to 2020. Armed factions in the capital and western regions appear divided over the crisis, with some saying on Tuesday they opposed parliament’s position. move to install a new government.

Bashagha, a former interior minister, said he was determined to hold elections within the time frame set by parliament next year, adding that he wanted to reach an agreement between rival political institutions on the issue.

Disputes over basic rules for the election led to the collapse of the planned vote in December.

At the same time, the UN on Thursday expressed concern over reports that a vote in Libya’s parliament to install a new government, a move that could trigger new fighting or a return to territorial division, “fell short of expected standards.”

An e-mail from the UN Secretary-General’s spokesman said there were reports that the vote did not meet the standards of transparency and procedure, and that there were intimidation acts before the session.

The UN is instead focused on renewing its aspirations ahead of elections, the spokesman said, adding that UN Libyan adviser Stephanie Williams will soon hold talks between parliament and an opposing political body, the High Council of State.

“I’m here to support the electoral process and the ambitions of 2.8 million Libyans,” Williams said on Twitter. “I reiterate the fundamental importance of maintaining security, stability and unity, and refraining from escalating provocations and violence,” she added.

Neither the political nor the military coalitions that are crystallizing now exactly match those who fought from 2014 until a ceasefire in 2020, but each new conflict would again likely pose Eastern forces against a combination of Western groups.

Dbeibah has rejected Parliament’s position and says he plans to hold national elections in June. Both sides blame each other for the failure of the December election and accuse each other of lacking legitimacy.

On the other hand, an armed force linked to Libya’s incumbent prime minister seized two ministers in the rival government who were to be sworn in on Thursday, two sources close to Bashagha told Reuters.

Bashagha said late Wednesday that Dbeibah in the capital, Tripoli, had also shut down Libyan airspace to prevent new ministers from flying to Tobruk to take the oath.

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