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Libya's Parliament Chooses New Prime Minister, Despite Current PM's Refusal to Quit 

Libyan Parliament meet to discuss appointment of a new prime minister and formation of a new government, in Tobruk, Libya Feb. 10, 2022.

A majority of the Libyan parliament has approved former interior minister Fathi Bashagha to head a new national unity government.

Bashagha, an Islamist and former militia commander from Misrata, appears to have sufficient support from militia forces in the west of the country to assume the post, despite the refusal of outgoing PM Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh to step down.

Libyan media broadcast video of Thursday's parliament session in the eastern town of Tobruk, showing Speaker Aguileh Saleh announcing the body's approval of new national unity prime minister Fathi Bashagha by majority vote.

FILE - Libya’s interior minister Fathi Bashagha is interviewed, Jan. 6, 2021 in Tripoli.
FILE - Libya’s interior minister Fathi Bashagha is interviewed, Jan. 6, 2021 in Tripoli.

Minutes earlier, the Libyan parliament approved a series of constitutional amendments, paving the way for parliamentary and presidential elections 14 months from now.

Elections, previously scheduled for Dec. 24, were cancelled when the country's electoral commission announced that it was unprepared to hold the vote.

What comes next is unclear.

Outgoing national unity prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh told Libyan media several days ago that he would not hand over power to a new prime minister, claiming that any such transfer was what he called "fraudulent."

Dbeibeh also claimed to have survived an assassination attempt by his opponents as he was riding in his limousine to his home in the capital, Tripoli. The prime minister's office released media pictures of his vehicle with bullet holes in the front windshield and several other places. Several news sources, however, questioned the authenticity of the attack.

Libya's Supreme Council of State, based in Tripoli, reportedly accepted the choice of Bashagha to head a new government, according to Parliament Speaker Saleh. However, al Jazeera TV, reported that Khaled al Meshri, who heads the council, has asked parliament to delay its vote until next week.

Some Libya observers warn that fighting could break out in Tripoli if militia forces oppose parliament's decision.

Paul Sullivan, a Washington-based Middle East analyst, tells VOA that "Libya is having a rough time settling down” even a decade after the ouster of longtime ruler Moahmmar Gadhafi.

Sullivan adds that "tribalism" is part of the problem in Libya, and that "amending the constitution could bring out even more animosities and angst. Libya," he argues, "is not a solidified country, yet."

Khattar Abou Diab, who teaches political science at the University of Paris, concurs with Sullivan about Libyan tribalism and stresses that "we have yet to see the final movement of the long and tortuous Libyan conflict."

Abou Diab argues that political forces in eastern Libya have succeeded in dividing the forces in the west of the country by naming Bashagha as the new prime minister, because Bashagha has significant support in Tripoli and surrounding areas.

Abou Diab adds that some reports say that militia forces in Tripoli are now in the process of surrounding government buildings held by those loyal to outgoing Prime Minister Dbeibeh.