By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 10 February 2022:
At its session today the House of Representatives (HoR) unanimously appointed Fathi Bashagha as prime minister designate. He is to replace current caretaker Prime Minister Abd Alhamid Aldabaiba.
Bashagha now has one week to form a government and present it to the HoR for a vote of confidence. unofficial reports say the new government would be labelled the Government of National Solidarity (GNS)
In a slightly chaotic but not unusual session, HoR Speaker Ageela Saleh announced during the session that he had received a letter of recommendation from the High State Council (HSC) allegedly supporting the candidacy of Bashagha as the new PM.
At another point Saleh had also interjected that he had been informed that the only other candidate for the post of Prime Minister, Khaled Bibas, had withdrawn from the race. Later, Libyan media reported that Bibas had refuted this. Nevertheless, Bashagha was put forward to a vote unopposed and despite repeated calls for an individual call out of yes or no, Saleh went for a show of hands that he announced was unanimous.
Bashagha’s win was predetermined?
The quick announcement by Hafter’s LNA of its support for Bashagha confirms that the HoR vote of Bashagha was in reality a coronation – a deal done behind the scenes ‘‘for the sake of the unity of Libya’’.
It is an acceptance by Bashagha that Hafter has real coercive power on the eastern Libyan ground and that he is not going to go away anytime soon. It is not a decision that western Libya like -especially in Misrata and the militias that had to fight Hafter in the war on Tripoli. Bashagha wants to swallow this bitter pill and include Hafter officially in the political process – for the sake of the unity of Tripoli.
Bashagha coming to Tripoli?
There is already unconfirmed news that Bashagha is arriving in Tripoli today. Analysts say he intends to leverage the fact that he was voted for by the HoR ‘‘unanimously’’ and that he has received Hafter’s backing to persuade Aldabaiba, his supporters and the western Libya militias to yield to his appointment.
It is still unclear what the reaction of current caretaker PM Aldabaiba will be or some of the western Libya militias that oppose Bashagha’s appointment?
Short of the use of force that would see fellow Misratans (and their allies) shooting at each other, what will Bashagha’s tactic to encourage Aldabaiba to yield power and position be? Will Aldabaiba put up a real struggle or will he accept his fate as a fait accompli?
Bashagha now has to hand out Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial posts over the next two weeks. It is thought that he will use his power of patronage to win over sceptics.
It is unclear if he too, like Aldabaiba, will go for an expanded government to win over the various regions and blocs within the HoR. He has one advantage over Aldabaiba in that he has Hafter’s pre-approval which will make the vote of confidence from the east easier. This should leave him more room for manoeuvre in western Libya.
Notably, at the time of publication of this article, UNSMIL and the international community have made no comments on Bashagha’s appointment.
Two weeks – until Bashagha presents his proposed government to the HoR for a vote of confidence – is a long time in politics…..