Libya’s interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibah led a cabinet meeting on Thursday, marking his return to the post despite concerns that postponement of the country’s presidential election could jeopardize his position.
The election, set for December 24, was meant to be the culmination of United Nations-led efforts to drag Libya out of a decade of conflict since a 2011 revolt against dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
But it was derailed by bitter arguments over divisive candidates – among them Dbeibah himself – and a disputed legal framework.
Dbeibah, a business tycoon, had taken leave from his role as head of a unity government to stand in the election. His administration is based in the capital Tripoli, in the country’s west, and was tasked with leading the North African country to the ballot box.
The mandate of the interim government was theoretically meant to end on December 24, but the United Kingdom’s embassy in Tripoli has said in a tweet that London “continues to recognise the #Government_of_National_Unity as the authority tasked with leading #Libya to #elections and does not endorse the establishment of parallel governments or institutions.”
A separate joint statement by Britain, France, Germany, Italy and the United States on December 24 insisted that “transfer of power from the current interim executive authority to the new executive authority shall take place following the announcement of the results” of polls when they happen.
The parliamentary committee charged with overseeing the elections on Monday called for a reshuffle of Dbeibah’s interim government, and said it would be too risky to fix a new date for the ballot.
The committee is part of an assembly based in the eastern city of Tobruk, reflecting the country’s deep divisions.
Dbeibah stood as a candidate in the now-postponed ballot even though he had said he would not.
On Thursday he described the political situation as “critical” but defended his record, saying: “We have worked to reestablish security and to support stability.”
He also exhorted his ministers to prepare for a “strong recovery” of the economy in 2022.
Years of conflict have ruined infrastructure and left Libya suffering chronic power cuts and runaway inflation.