Libya’s parliament has voted to approve an interim unity government to lead the war-ravaged nation to December elections, a key step towards ending a decade of chaos.
After two days of intense debate, the parliament on Wednesday approved the cabinet of interim Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah, with 121 of the 132 lawmakers present voting in support, his spokesman said.
“This a historic day for the House of Representatives,” declared Speaker Aguila Saleh at the end of the vote.
Dbeibah, who was selected last month at UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, last week presented his proposed cabinet to Saleh.
The 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 transitional government is to lead the country through elections, scheduled for December 24, according to a UN-brokered plan.
Anas El Gomati, an analyst with the Sadeq Institute, told Al Jazeera the endorsement of the unity government is a “symbolic victory”.
“It’s the first unified executive in almost seven years,” he said. “That in itself is a major victory. It demonstrates a reflection on the part of the constituents in the country that they want to turn over a new page and begin to unify the divided institutions that have essentially divided the country for the past seven years.”
Al Jazeera’s Malik Traina said this marked a historic day for Libya, after almost a decade of internal divisions exacerbated by international interference.
“Now we’re seeing the international community are more willing to see a unified Libya,” he said, speaking from the Libyan city of Misrata.
“MPs after years of division were able to finally meet and have a session to give this new national unity government a vote of confidence,” he continued.
“Just recently both rival governments have stated they are both willing to hand over power. So quite a historic day, and perhaps the beginning of a serious reconciliation process.”
Accusations of corruption
Dbeibah’s proposed cabinet includes 33 ministers and two deputy prime ministers who he said are representative of Libya’s different geographic areas and social segments.
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 opponents 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 rival governments, one in the east and another in the west, each backed by a vast array of militias as well as foreign powers.
These foreign powers, which include Russia, Turkey, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have stationed their forces in Libya for years, and according to El Gomati, represent a “long-term investment in some respects”.
“[These forces have] continued to be there irrespective of the political process in Tunisia and Geneva, and irrespective of the vote that took place today,” he said.
“They are unwilling to let go of a seven-year investment without having real guarantees that their geo-strategic objectives have been met.”