This is how key actors in Libya are positioning themselves amid fears of further political fragmentation, partition and a new war.
Libya is again on the brink of political division, partition and potentially another bloody civil war. While waiting for elections under the sponsorship of the UN-backed transitional Government of National Unity, led by Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah, a parallel rival and another transitional PM has been assigned by the eastern-based Tobruk Parliament, House of Representatives (HoR).
In an unanimous vote, the former interior minister of Libya, Fathi Bashagha, has been selected by the HoR as the new interim PM, a move expected to deepen divisions between rival factions in the war-stricken country.
How has Libya come to this point?
Following the postponement of December 24, 2021 presidential elections due to several issues such as the lack of constitutional basis and the candidacies of controversial figures, divisions in the North African country have deepened.
Last week, the HoR announced that the UN-backed Government of National Unity’s (GNU) mandate has expired and it will be installing a new rival government. Then, Fathi Bashagha was elected by the HoR as what they call a ‘new PM’.
Special adviser to the UN secretary general, Stephanie Williams said: “My fear is that some people may now manoeuvre for a prolonged period of delay. The HoR exists off a mandate that it was given in elections 3,700 days ago. It has been seven years, seven months since Libya went to the national polls.Their shelf life has long expired. This is ultimately a struggle over assets, power and money. That is quite a motive to hang on.”
How have officials, the UN and Libyans responded?
On Wednesday, hundreds took to the streets in the capital of Tripoli to protest the parliament's decision to name a new premier.
Libyan PM Dbeibah warned that his dismissal would lead the country back to "division and chaos" after nearly two years of relative calm. He said that he would only relinquish his post to an elected government.
On Wednesday, he also called on Libyans to take to the streets and make their voice heard while saying that people are tired of the extension and transitional stages.
“Libyans want a state with a solid foundation and sound construction,” Dbeibah added.
On Thursday, Dbeibah escaped an assassination attempt on his convoy in Tripoli in the early hours of Thursday which showed the seriousness of rising political tensions in the country.
UN Secretary-General’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, expressed the UN's concern about the path that Libya is headed down.
"Libyan leaders should focus on the interests of their people in the first place and achieve the unity of power and the unity of their country," he said.
The UN has also said that it still recognises Abdul Hamid Dbeibah as Libya's interim prime minister after the HoR voted for Fathi Bashagha to become the country's new premier.
"The short answer is yes," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, on Thursday while answering the question about whether the UN still recognises Dbeibah as Libya’s PM.
"It's very important for all Libyan leaders and stakeholders to keep in mind the Libyan people," Dujarric said, adding that the UN's aim was to "help the Libyan people."
"We have seen the reports of the appointment of another prime minister," he said.
"Our position remained unchanged."
What are major powers saying?
Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States last month urged the war-torn country to quickly set a new date for delayed presidential elections when the postponement was officially announced.
The five nations released a joint statement on December 24, saying they would continue to recognise Libya's interim government, Government of National Unity (GNU), after the country's election was delayed.
"We call on the relevant Libyan authorities to respect the aspirations of the Libyan people for prompt elections by swiftly determining a final date for the polling and issuing the final list of presidential candidates without delay," it said.
On the other hand, Türkiye has several times stressed the importance of holding fair and inclusive elections is important to ensure unity and integrity of the nation.
"Türkiye, which played a key role in establishing the ceasefire and calm on the ground, as well as advancing the political process in Libya, has been advocating from the outset that the elections must be held on a solid legal basis, that is reached through the broadest possible consensus among all relevant institutions in accordance with the Libyan Political Agreement," Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement on December 24.