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Libya PM urges parliament to vote for new Cabinet

By AFP - Mar 09,2021 - Last updated at Mar 09,2021

SIRTE, Libya — Libya's prime minister-designate urged lawmakers on Monday to vote for his new unity government for the divided country, a crucial step towards December elections and stability after a decade of violence.

The oil-rich North African nation descended into chaos after leader Muammer Qadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, resulting in multiple forces vying for power.

A UN-supervised process aims to unite the country after an October ceasefire between forces loyal to two rival administrations, each backed by foreign powers, based in the east and west of the country.

The parliament began meeting Monday to discuss the government in the coastal city of Sirte, Qadhafi's hometown, halfway between Tripoli, where the UN-recognised government is based, and the east, seat of the rival administration.

A total of 132 members of the 188-strong House of Representatives gathered for the vote, with deputies questioning the composition of Prime minister-designate Abdul Hamid Dbeibah's Cabinet line-up.

Dbeibah was selected in February at UN-sponsored talks attended by a cross section of Libyans to steer the country toward the scheduled December 24 polls.

His interim government faces 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.


‘Difficult tasks’ 


Dbeibah, a billionaire businessman, submitted his 33-member government to parliament for approval last week, without publicly revealing any names.

If approved, it would replace the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) headed by Fayez Al Sarraj, and a parallel eastern-based administration backed by strongman Khalifa Haftar.

An interim three-member presidency council, selected alongside Dbeibah last month, will head the new unity administration.

If deputies fail to endorse the government on Monday, a new vote must take place, and Dbeibah has until March 19 to win approval for his Cabinet.

In a televised speech ahead of the vote, Dbeibah urged lawmakers to vote to confirm the government.

“I call on deputies not to miss the chance to unify parliament with this meeting today... so as to allow the government to immediately accomplish the difficult tasks” ahead, he said.

But hurdles have emerged in the run-up to the vote, including allegations of vote-buying during the process to elect Dbeibah.

They centre on claims in a confidential report by UN experts that at least three participants were offered bribes of hundreds of thousands of dollars in November.

“Obstacles and difficulties have already emerged even before the vote of confidence,” said Khaled Al Montasser, a professor of international relations in Tripoli.


‘Climate of tension’ 


Libyan political analyst Mahmud Khalfallah said Dbeibah’s “political rivals have launched ferocious campaigns to defame him”, resulting in “a climate of tension”.

Libyans have also taken to social networks to decry the size of the proposed government.

Many have criticised Dbeibah’s decision to set up a Cabinet with 33 ministers and two deputy premiers, saying a government due to rule until just December does not need to be so big.

The Sarraj government has only 26 portfolios.

One deputy on Monday charged that “controversal” figures were among the Cabinet line-up.

Dbeibah has defended himself, saying he wanted to form a “balanced” government “representative of all the Libyan people” and its regions.

To reflect that, he said, seven key portfolios would be handed to figures from Libya’s three main provinces.

The foreign ministry would be allocated to the east, the ministries of economy, trade and justice to the west, and the defence, interior and finance portfolios to the south.

Dbeibah has also defended the “integrity” of the process leading to his election and demanded the publication of the report claiming corruption.

The report prepared by UN experts is to be submitted formally to the UN Security Council in mid-March, and some lawmakers asked for the vote of confidence to be delayed until then.

And Sirte, where parliament is meeting, is under the control of forces of military strongman Haftar, who include foreign combatants and mercenaries.

According to the UN, some 20,000 mercenaries and foreign fighters were still in Libya in early December, and a January 23 deadline for their withdrawal passed without any sign of them pulling them out.

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