Libyan lawmakers have confirmed a newly appointed government, in the hope it will help unify the divided, war-wrecked North African country, and shepherd it through to elections at the end of the year.
"This will be the government of all Libyans," interim Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah said, in a brief but emotional speech after the vote on Wednesday.
"It is a historic day," influential parliament speaker Aguila Saleh said.
Libya’s parliament voted Wednesday to approve a unity government to lead the war-ravaged North African nation to December elections, a key step towards ending a decade of chaos. https://t.co/2QqPW81Ynz— The Arab Weekly (@ArabWeekly) March 10, 2021
More than 100 members of the divided parliament voted to back his government in a rare session in the frontline city of Sirte, with only a handful voting against.
Saleh said 132 lawmakers approved Dbeibah’s government, which has a mandate that lasts until elections are held on December 24, according to a UN-brokered roadmap.
The vote came after two days of deliberations in the coastal city of Sirte. The confirmation came after Dbeibah last week presented his proposed Cabinet to Speaker Aguila Saleh.
“Congratulations on the formation of an interim unity government to set the stage for elections in December,” tweeted the US Ambassador in Libya Richard Norland.
The interim government must now tackle the daunting challenge of addressing the many grievances of Libyans, from a dire economic crisis and soaring unemployment to crippling inflation and wretched public services.
Libya has been split between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord, based in the capital Tripoli and backed by Turkey, and an administration in the east supported by warlord Khalifa Haftar, with the backing of the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Russia.
But a UN-supervised process aims to unite the country after an October ceasefire, and the new government has to bring the rival administrations together.
Another key task facing the new administration is ensuring the departure of an estimated 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters. Dbeibah told lawmakers they were "a stab in our back".
The premier said Tuesday he would tell the United Nations and the countries where the mercenaries come from to demand they withdraw.
A January 23 deadline for their withdrawal passed without any sign of them pulling them out.
As expected, #UNSC will not reach consensus on the #war in #Tigray #Ethiopia. #geopolitics and alliances will again define the relations and interventions in the #Horn_of_Africa. https://t.co/a7L2QFXs73— Kjetil Tronvoll (@KjetilTronvoll) March 5, 2021
Dbeibah, a powerful businessman from the western city of Misrata, was appointed last month to lead the executive branch of an interim government that also includes a three-member Presidential Council chaired by Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat from the country’s east.
The process has been marred by allegations of vote-buying, but the interim premier defended the composition of his government.
"My first objective was to choose people with whom I would be able to work, no matter where they come from," Dbeibah said, during the debate in parliament.
His government includes two deputy prime ministers, 26 ministers and six ministers of state, with the key foreign affairs and justice portfolios handed to women, a first in Libya.
The manner of Dbeibeh's own appointment and the expansive size of his cabinet have drawn criticism in Libya with accusations of corruption and influence peddling that spoilers could leverage to deny his legitimacy.
Oil-rich Libya was plunged into chaos after a 2011 NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi. The country has been divided between two governments, one in the east and another in the west, each backed by a vast array of militias as well as foreign powers.
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