On Thursday, the eastern parliament in war-torn Libya appointed a former interior minister as prime minister, a serious challenge for the administration of interim prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah.
“The House of Representatives unanimously approved Fathi Bashagha to lead the government,” Parliamentary spokesman Abdullah Bliheg said in a tweet.
The move threatens to trigger a new power struggle between the eastern-based assembly and the Dbeibah administration based in Tripoli, in western Libya.
The tycoon, who was appointed a year ago as part of UN-led peace efforts, has promised to hand over power only to a government produced by the ballot box.
His administration was mandated to lead the country to elections on December 24, but they were suspended in the midst of bitter disagreement over their legal basis and the candidacies of several controversial individuals.
Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, who, like Dbeibah and Bashagha, had been a presidential candidate, has since led 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 was the only remaining challenger, when former Interior Ministry official Khaled al-Bibass withdrew from the race.
In a televised speech on Tuesday, Dbeibah had promised that he “would not accept any new transitional phase or parallel authority” and declared that he would only hand over power to an elected government.
Both Bashagha and Dbeibah have the support of rival armed groups in Libya’s capital.
The UN, the Western powers and even some members of parliament have demanded that Dbeibah remain in his role until the election, for which a new date has not yet been set.
Thursday’s vote threatens a repeat of a schism from 2014 in which two parallel governments emerged.
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