SIRTE, Libya — Libya’s long-divided parliament on Wednesday approved an interim government mandated to bring the fractured country together after a decade of chaos and violence, and to oversee elections in December as part of a United Nations-backed peace plan.
The parliament’s approval of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh’s cabinet by 132 votes to two against, at a session in a war-battered frontline city, represents the biggest opportunity in years for a resolution to Libya’s conflict.
“Through this vote, it became clear that the Libyans are one unit,” Dbeibeh told parliament afterwards.
However, huge hurdles remain and the manner of Dbeibeh’s own appointment and the size of his cabinet have drawn criticism in Libya with accusations of corruption and influence peddling that spoilers could leverage to deny his legitimacy.
On the ground, Libya’s streets, businesses and state institutions remain in the shadow of myriad armed factions and split between two rival administrations, while foreign powers backing either side have kept their guns in place.
Amending the constitution and holding free elections in 2021 will be an immense challenge, though all sides have formally committed to do so.
“If we come out of this with one government and one set of institutions then we’re already in a far superior place than we’ve been for the last five years,” said Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations.
The parliament session was in Sirte, where front lines stabilised last summer after the Government of National Accord (GNA) pushed Khalifa Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army back from Tripoli.
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Both the GNA and the eastern administration welcomed the vote and said they were ready to hand power over to the new government. Parliament speaker Aguila Saleh said Dbeibeh’s cabinet would be sworn in next week.
It was parliament’s first full session in years after it split between eastern and western factions soon after being elected in 2014 – three years after an uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi plunged the oil-producing country into chaos.
A ceasefire has held since the autumn, but the main road across the front lines from Sirte to Misrata remains closed and lawmakers coming from the west had to fly in from Tripoli.