Libyan parliament approves government of PM Abdulhamid Dbeibah
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Libyan parliament approves government of PM Abdulhamid Dbeibah

The Libyan parliament validated Wednesday an interim government mandated to reunite the fractured country after a decade of war and administer the December elections under an UN-backed peace plan.

Abdulhamid Dbeibah, a billionaire businessman, was selected as an interim prime minister at a forum held by the United Nations in Geneva last month. Dbeibah submitted his 33-member cabinet program to parliament for approval last week without publicly revealing any names. After a long debate, Monday by more than 130 legislators, the Dbeibah’s cabinet was approved by 132 votes to two against. This approval is considered as the biggest opportunity in years for a resolution to Libya’s conflict.

After the death of the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in a 2011 NATO-backed uprising, the country descended into chaos due to rival forces racing for power in the oil-rich North African country. Libya has long been divided between two rival governments, each backed by an array of local militias and foreign powers. Turkey has supported the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA). In contrast, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt supported the rival eastern administration backed by renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar.

The parliament session was held in Sirte, where the front lines stabilized last summer after the GNA pushed Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army back from Tripoli. It was parliament’s first full session in years after it split between eastern and western factions soon after being elected in 2014. Both rivals welcomed the vote and expressed their willingness to hand power over to the new government.

According to the UN-brokered plan, the transitional government must lead the country through elections scheduled for December 24. Anas El Gomati, an analyst with the Sadeq Institute, noted:

“It is the first unified executive in almost seven years … 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.”

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. However, the manner of Dbeibah’s 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.