Corruption allegations swirl as Libyan lawmakers back unity government

SIRTE, Libya – The long-divided Libyan parliament on Wednesday approved a transitional government tasked with bringing the broken country together after a decade of chaos and violence and overseeing the December elections as part of a United Nations-backed peace plan.

Parliament’s approval of Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dbeibeh’s cabinet by 132 votes to two at a meeting in a war-torn front-line city is the greatest chance in years for a solution to the Libyan conflict.

“This vote made it clear that the Libyans are a unit,” Dbeibeh then told parliament.

Major hurdles remain, however, and the way Dbeibeh himself was appointed and the size of his cabinet have sparked criticism in Libya with allegations of corruption and peddling that could use spoilers to deny his legitimacy.

Locally, Libya’s roads, shops and state institutions remain in the shadow of myriad armed factions and are split between two rival administrations while foreign powers supporting both sides have kept their weapons in place.

Changing the constitution and holding free elections in 2021 will be an immense challenge, although all sides have formally committed to it.

“If we come out of this with a government and a number of institutions, we are already in a far superior place than we have been in the last five years,” said Tarek Megerisi of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The parliamentary session took place in Sirte, where the front stabilized last summer after the National Agreement (GNA) government pushed Khalifa Haftar’s Libyan national army in the east back from Tripoli.

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Both the GNA and the Eastern government welcomed the vote and agreed to hand over power to the new government. Parliament spokeswoman Aguila Saleh said Dbeibeh’s cabinet would be sworn in next week.

It was the first full session of parliament in years after it was split between eastern and western factions shortly after its election in 2014 – three years after an uprising that toppled Muammar Gaddafi and plunged the oil-producing country into chaos.

A truce has been in place since autumn, but the main road across the Sirte-Misrata front remains closed and western legislators have been forced to fly in from Tripoli.

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