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Libyan Prime Minister escapes assassination attempt as parliament seeks to replace him

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Thursday, February 10th 2022 à 15:45 | Read 254 times

The Libyan House of Representatives will elect a new interim Prime Minister (photo: HoR Libya)
The Libyan House of Representatives will elect a new interim Prime Minister (photo: HoR Libya)
LIBYA. Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh has survived an attempted assassination attempt, miraculously and without any injuries according to the local press. In Tripoli, on Thursday 9 February 2022, unknown persons riddled the car in which he was travelling with bullets.

After the hope of a presidential election - which would be the first in the country's history - already postponed twice, Libya demonstrates once again its difficulty in converting to democracy. Although the two civil wars, the first (revolution from 15 February 2011 to 23 October 2011) to oust Muammar Gaddafi from power, and the second (16 May 2014 to 23 October 2020) first to fight the Islamic State and then to seize power, have been over for two years, the stigma remains. The internal wounds and division prevent any resolution of the rift that began in 2014 between the eastern and western factions. Despite the efforts of the international community, led by the UN, which is trying to accelerate the unity of the country, in vain so far, the East and West of the country remain irreconcilable.

Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh, who was elected in June 2014 and is located in Tobruk (east of the country), was only given lip service by the House of Representatives (HoR), which was appointed in March 2021. His role was to prepare the legislative and presidential elections, then to fade away. Even before the election campaign, he was challenged. The HoR proclaimed, without a vote, electoral laws to favour the candidacies of its strongmen, notably that of Khalifa Haftar. The marshal had tried to militarily seize Tripoli, where a UN-recognised Government of National Unity (GNA) was in place. Only the arrival of the Turkish army alongside the Prime Minister and President of the Presidential Council at the time Fayez el-Sarraj, had prevented this reunification by arms.

Back to square one

Despite the national and permanent ceasefire declared on 23 October 2020 and the long work done by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum - which led to a roadmap ensuring a transition before elections - Libya is back to square one. It is back to a previous situation where antagonism between the political forces in the west and east of the country reigns supreme and prevents any reconciliation. More seriously, the two parties no longer seem to want to move in this direction. By running for president, although he had promised not to be a candidate, Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh also bears his share of responsibility in this impasse.

Claiming that he was supposed to leave office after December 24, 2021 - the date of the presidential election that did not take place - the MPs from the East believe that Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh is no longer legitimate in this position. The latter intends to remain in place until the ballot box designates a President. This is the meaning of his mandate set by the Political Dialogue Forum and the United Nations mission in Libya as well as the decision to launch a new electoral process in June 2022. The vagueness of interpretation fuels dissension and raises fears, in the very short term, of the installation of two parallel administrations that would no longer discuss. With the spectre of a new civil war hanging over all these events.

Imminent election of a rival Prime Minister
Aguila Saleh, President of the Tobruk Parliament, does not want to wait for a hypothetical election. He also refuses to allow it to be held in 2022. He has therefore been preparing the succession to the provisional Prime Minister since 31 January 2022. The deputies have selected two candidates, Fathi Bashagha and Khaled Bibas. The first, who seems largely the favorite because accepted by Khalifa Haftar and Aguila Saleh, is a former leader of a militia in Misrata. He was Minister of the Interior in the GNA and candidate for the presidential election of 24 December 2021. However, he assures that he will not run in the next elections. His opponent, Khaled Bibas is from Tripoli. He was head of the Civil Registry Authority (CRA).

A situation not appreciated by Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh who, the day before the attack, indicated "I will not allow new transition periods. We will not withdraw from the role of government that we promised to the people until the elections have taken place." The Prime Minister also pointed to attempts to destabilise him, saying he would not allow the "dominant political class of the last few years to extend their rule any longer."
Parliament is expected to vote on Thursday 10 February 2022. Abdel Hamid Dbeibeh has already made it clear that he will not recognise his result. He is supported in this position by the UN and Western countries.

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