Libyan delegates chose a list of candidates in a UN-hosted process aimed to give balance to regional powers and various political and economic interests.
Delegates from Libya’s warring factions have selected four leaders to guide the North African country through to national elections in December, seen as a major — if uncertain — step toward unifying a nation with two separate governments in the east and west.
In what could become a landmark achievement to end one of the intractable conflicts left behind by the Arab uprising a decade ago, the 74 delegates chose a list of candidates in a UN-hosted process aimed to give balance to regional powers and various political and economic interests.
Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat with a support base in the country’s east, was chosen to head the three-person Presidential Council. His deputies will be Moussa al Koni, a Touareg from Libya's south, and Abdallah Hussein al Lafi, from the western city of Zuwara.
Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a powerful businessman backed by western tribes, was chosen as interim prime minister.
Their list won with 39 votes versus 34 for their rivals: eastern-based parliament chief Aguila Saleh and western-based interior minister Fathi Bashagha as prime minister.
The UN process, known as the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, was aimed at choosing an interim authority that will oversee Libya as part of an effort to rebuild state institutions and lead to national elections on December 24.
Menfi’s list was elected in a runoff as none of four lists initially proposed secured the required 60 percent of votes from the delegates in the first round.
The voting was taking place under the mediation of the UN secretary general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, in hopes of bringing stability to a country that has been largely lawless since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled and killed in 2011.
“I am pleased to witness this historic moment,” said Williams addressing delegates upon the announcement of the results. “The decision that you have taken today will grow with the passage of time in the collective memory of the Libyan people.”
Williams stressed that the interim government must fully support the ceasefire and uphold the national elections date. She added that the new executive authority must also launch “a comprehensive national reconciliation process.”
Turkey welcomes move
Turkey has welcomed the recent political developments in Libya.
“We welcome the designation of the President and members of the Presidency Council and the Prime Minister who will serve until the general elections that are scheduled to be held on 24 December 2021 in Libya, as a result of the elections held in the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF),” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We hope that the new Government of National Unity will be formed and take office as soon as possible on the basis of the Road Map adopted by the LPDF,” the ministry noted.
Reiterating Turkey’s support for democracy, security, and stability in Libya, the ministry called on the international community not to tolerate developments and actors who might spoil the political solution in the country.
Years of turmoil
Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and another in the west of the country, each backed by a vast array of militias. In April 2019, warlord Khalifa Haftar allied with the eastern government, launched an offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli.
His campaign failed after 14 months of fighting. In October, the UN convinced both parties to sign a ceasefire agreement and embark on a political dialogue.
Key powerbroker Saleh, the speaker of the Haftar-allied parliament based in the eastern city of Tobruk, was not elected to the transitional council.
The participants – selected by the United Nations to represent a broad cross-section of society – have been meeting since Monday at a venue outside Geneva.
The two blocs have been whittled down from an original choice of four, described earlier by moderator Williams as "representative of Libya's greatness and its potential."
All of the prime ministerial candidates gave written pledges committing to an agreed roadmap towards holding national elections on December 24, and to respecting the results of that vote.
They also committed to appointing women to at least 30 percent of the senior leadership positions in the transitional government.
"That means ministers, deputy ministers – and I believe that should include deputy prime ministers," said Williams.
LPDF held a first round of voting on Tuesday but with none of the 24 council candidates meeting the required threshold of 70 percent, elections moved to a second round based on four alternative lists for the four posts.
'Reuniting state institutions'
In Friday's fresh round of voting, 60 percent of valid votes were needed to elect a list.
The Bashagha-led list came first with 25 votes, followed by Dbeibah on 20, Mohammed Abdul-Lateef al Montaser on 15 and Mohammad Khaled Adbullah Ghweil on 13.
Without a clear winner, the top two lists proceeded to a straight run-off ballot.
For transparency, the entire voting process was broadcast live by the UN.
According to the UN, the transitional council will be tasked with "reuniting state institutions and ensuring security" until the December 24 elections.
A fragile ceasefire agreed in Geneva in October has largely held, despite threats by Haftar to resume fighting.
The UN Security Council on Thursday instructed Secretary General Antonio Guterres to deploy ceasefire monitors to Libya.