Tobruk (Reuters) – Libya’s parliament spokesman said the chamber had selected a new prime minister on Thursday after one of the two candidates withdrew, a move that may trigger a new political struggle with the incumbent refusing to step down.
A video showed parliament members raising their hands when asked to support Fathi Bashagha, a former interior minister, to head a new interim government, but it was not clear if any formal vote had actually taken place.
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future after the collapse of an election that was planned for December, saying Dbeibah’s interim government is no longer valid and pushing any new election back until next year.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 mobilised inside Tripoli in recent weeks, analysts say the political crisis will not necessarily translate into fighting soon.
The U.N. Libya adviser and Western countries have said 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.
Critics of Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh have previously accused him of chicanery in pushing through laws or decisions without proper votes.
Some 132 parliament members attended Thursday’s session and they voted to confirm a move to redraft Libya’s temporary constitution in consultation with another body, the High State Council.
However, as a vote on the new prime minister approached, Saleh said Bashagha’s rival in the contest had withdrawn. The session was briefly suspended and the parliament spokesman then announced that Bashagha had been selected.
The move to appoint a new prime minister may not immediately trigger a confrontation with Dbeibah and the GNU, however, as it may take some time for Bashagha to form a government acceptable to a majority of lawmakers.
Still, it underscores the fragility of Libya’s attempted transition as rival factions work to prevent any rival from growing too powerful.
A source close to Dbeibah said on Thursday night that he had survived an assassination attempt when bullets struck his car hours before the parliamentary vote, but there was no immediate official or public statement to confirm that.