Libya’s Prime Minister-designate, Fathi Bashagha said that he has no immediate plans to rule from Tripoli. This comes after his failed attempt to enter last week sparked clashes, and fears of a return to civil war.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Bashagha said that his government will work from its headquarters in Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean coast about halfway between the country’s east and west.
Rival administrations from either side of Libya claim to be its legitimate rulers, until elections are held.
Describing last week’s events, Bashagha said he had entered Tripoli in a civilian car, and that those escorting him were unarmed. A young man, Ahmed Alashban was killed during the incident. Bashagha identified him as a supporter who was defending him from militiamen.
“We do blame ourselves for having entered the city,” he said. “I had said that I would not enter the capital unless conditions were 100% favourable.”
Oil-rich Libya has been wracked by conflict since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Bashagha, a former interior minister and air force pilot, was named Prime Minister by the country’s eastern-based Parliament in February. Incumbent PM, Abdel-Hamid Dbaiba has refused to step down, insisting that he would only hand over power to an elected government.
Dbaiba’s appointment last year, as part of a UN-led peace process, was clouded by allegations of corruption and bribery. Dbaiba was due to lead the country through elections in December, but the vote never took place.
Lawmakers argued that Dbaiba’s mandate expired after elections failed to take as scheduled. This was a major blow to international efforts to end a decade of chaos in Libya. The country reverted to its long-running political impasse, with rival governments claiming power.
Bashagha said he doubts his rival can unite the country, and organize orderly elections. He also claimed that Dbaiba does not command enough loyalty outside of the capital. “He will only be able to hold them in Tripoli.”
He concluded that his own government is looking to hold nationwide elections within 14 months.
The impasse worsened over the past two months, resulting in the closure of oil facilities — including Libya’s largest oil field, Al-Feel. Bashagha said he was not behind the stoppage of oil production, but that local tribes had decided to take matters into their own hands, not wanting to fund Dbaiba’s government.
Bashagha also called on the country’s Central Bank, torn by years of civil war, to provide his government with the budget that was approved by the Parliament.