Minister resigns from Libya’s new govt, citing unfair vote

CAIRO (AP) — A newly appointed minister in one of Libya’s rival governments resigned Thursday, alleging that the vote in the eastern city of Tobruk that ushered in the new administration failed to include all of the country’s factions.

Gamal Salem Shaaban, who had been appointed economy and trade minister, announced his resignation in a video posted on social media. It came on the heels of a U.N. statement voicing concerns over reports that the voting on the new Cabinet was flawed.

The appointment of the rival body to the country’s Tripoli-based authorities has raised fears of more strife after nearly a decade of civil war that saw the country split between parallel administrations in the east and west.

On Tuesday, the prime minister of the new rival government, Fathi Bashagha, submitted his Cabinet list to the east-based House of Representatives, and 92 out of of 101 lawmakers in attendance in Tobruk backed it.

“That session lacked transparency and integrity and did not meet procedural standards,” Shaaban said. “There is no honor in being part of a Cabinet that will bring about war and destruction.”

Bashagha’s own appointment last month deepened divisions among Libyan factions and raised fears that fighting could return after more than a year and a half of relative calm.

Libya’s embattled Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah — who like Bashagha hails from Misrata — has remained defiant against replacing his government.

Bashagha’s Cabinet was sworn-in later Thursday, though not all ministers attended. After taking the oath, he told parliament that armed groups had abducted the newly appointed ministers for foreign affairs, culture and technical education — and shot at others who were on their way to the ceremony. The reports could not be independently verified.

The house condemned the alleged abductions and held Dbeibah’s government responsible for the safety of all new ministers. Bashagha’s Cabinet includes three deputy prime ministers, 29 ministers and six ministers of state.

“Some are trying to drag us into war and infighting but we will not give them such a chance. We will not spill a single drop of blood,” Bashagha said. “We will study all options so that we can take over power in Tripoli by force of the law and not by force.”

The lawmakers renewed their calls for Dbeibah to cede power peacefully. Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh, in response to U.N. criticism, stressed that 97 out of 101 lawmakers has backed Bashagha’s picks in Tuesday’s vote.

Dbeibah has repeatedly said his administration will hand over power only to an elected government. He has proposed a four-point plan to hold a simultaneous parliamentary vote and referendum on constitutional amendments late in June. That would be followed by a presidential election after the new parliament crafts a permanent constitution.

Dbeibah was appointed through a U.N.-led process in February 2021 on the condition that he shepherd the country until elections that were supposed to take place in December. The effort to replace him stems from Libya’s failure to hold its first presidential election during his watch.

The vote’s delay was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in the oil-rich Mediterranean nation.

Libya has been unable to hold elections since its disputed legislative vote in 2014, which caused the country to split for years between rival administrations in the east and west, each backed by armed militias and foreign governments.

The oil-rich North African nation has been wrecked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled then killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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