Libya's new PM to unveil team in first hurdle of transition

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  • Libya's prime minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dheibah will name a government.
  • The administration is tasked with unifying the country.
  • But deep divisions remain.

Libya's prime minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dheibah is set to name a transitional government on Thursday tasked with unifying the war-torn nation and leading it to elections in December.

Dbeibah, himself selected earlier this month in a UN-sponsored process, will deliver his line-up to Libya's presidential council, before it is submitted to parliament for approval at a venue and date that have yet to be agreed, a member of his office said late on Wednesday.

READ | Libyan interior minister escapes shooting attack on motorcade in Tripoli

Libya last week marked 10 years since the start of its 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, plunging the country into a decade of violence and political turmoil.

Today, the oil-rich North African nation is split between two rival administrations, as well as countless militias.

Emadeddin Badi, an analyst at the Geneva-based Global Initiative, warns that Dbeibah faces a rough ride ahead.

While his appointment "temporarily" resulted in support across Libya, he said, those left out "will undoubtedly mobilise to hinder support for his administration".

Daunting challenge

The new team aims to replace a Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, and a parallel cabinet in eastern Libya backed by military strongman Khalifa Hafter and parliament.

It faces the daunting challenge of addressing the grievances of ordinary Libyans, hit by a dire economic crisis, soaring unemployment, wretched public services and crippling inflation.

Dbeibah, a 61-year-old engineer and businessman who once held posts under Gaddafi, was selected on 5 February by a forum of 75 Libyan delegates at UN-led talks in Switzerland.

An interim three-member presidency council - selected alongside Dbeibah - is to head the unity administration.

The premier has until 19 March to win approval for his cabinet, before tackling the giant task of unifying Libya's fractured institutions and leading the transition up to 24 December 24 polls.

Dbeibah has said his selection of ministers was based on "criteria of competence, diversity and inclusion".

Under a UN roadmap, at least 30% of top government posts - ministers and deputy ministers - must be filled by women and young candidates.

The UN special envoy for Libya, Jan Kubis, held talks on Wednesday on the telephone with Dbeibah, the UN mission said.

Dbeibah has to win over not only critics at home, but foreign powers with competing interests in Libya.

The GNA, backed by Turkey, has been pitted against forces loyal to Haftar in the east, backed by Egypt, Russia and the UAE.

Significantly, Dbeibah's first visit abroad was to Egypt, Libya's powerful neighbour. He has also held talks with the influential speaker of parliament, Aguila Saleh.

The House of Representatives, which never recognised the legitimacy of the GNA, is itself split.

In 2019, 50 deputies staged a boycott in protest at Saleh's support for an aborted bid by Haftar's forces to seize Tripoli that was followed by a UN-brokered ceasefire last October.

Now deputies can't even decide where to convene for the vote on Dbeibah's team.

Saleh wants to hold the session in Sirte, half-way between east and west, but the majority of lawmakers prefer Sabratha, west of Tripoli.

If a quorum for parliament is not met, the 75 delegates who took part in the Switzerland talks would vote for the executive.

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