A new power struggle has deepened the Libyan crisis following the Tobruk-based House of Representatives' appointment of former Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha as prime minister last Thursday, while incumbent Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah vowed to continue in the post until national elections are held.
The failure to hold discussions on the legitimacy of Libya's Government of National Unity (GNU), originally scheduled on Dec. 24, has led to differences of opinion in the west of the country as well.
Arriving at Tripoli's Mitiga airport late Thursday, Bashagha was greeted by a group of supporters. No legal sanctions were imposed on him and he did not encounter any obstacles.
Dbeibah on Friday went to Misrata, his and Bashagha’s hometown located east of Tripoli, and held talks with local administrations and some military officials there.
Following the talks, it was announced that a military force from Misrata would head toward Tripoli on Saturday to bolster the legitimacy of the state and force the parties to hold presidential and parliamentary elections.
Later, the 21 brigades in Misrata released a written statement reacting to the election of Bashagha as prime minister that said it was unacceptable that the House of Representatives acted alone in the political and constitutional process.
On Saturday, around 200 heavily armed military vehicles, including two Turkish-made Kirpi, arrived in Tripoli from Misrata in the evening. A group that introduced themselves as the "Libyan army support force" in Martyrs' Square condemned the decision of the House of Representatives parliament to elect Bashagha as the new prime minister.
The group denounced "the state of absurdity that contradicts the outcomes of the political dialogue forum and wants the country to enter new transitional stages."
Decisions taken in the House of Representatives in its last meeting in Tobruk were not "in accordance with fair and transparent procedures," it said.
It voiced "strong support for parliamentary elections, the referendum on the constitution, and presidential elections as soon as possible.”
Khaled al-Mishri, president of the Libyan High Council of State, said the evaluation meeting, which should be held after the election of the new prime minister, was postponed and they did not take a final position on the issue. Al-Mishri said he would accept the objections in the next session of the council.
Evaluations from the Libyan streets indicate that if al-Mishri had also announced support for Bashagha as prime minister, the Dbeibah government would have fallen.
Following al-Mishri's remarks, Dbeibah, who does not look kindly on the fact that the elections will be held shortly, said he would change his stance and make a statement on Feb. 17 on the elections coinciding with the anniversary of the revolution.
On the other hand, the United Nations has continued to support Dbeibah after the house's vote.
The eastern-based House of Representatives parliament had announced that Khaled Bibas, who was Bashagha’s only rival in the elections, had withdrawn from the race.
However, Bibas denied having withdrawn and accused Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh of having lied by announcing his withdrawal.
Different scenarios are emerging regarding the situation in the west of the country.
The first scenario is that the Dbeibah government will continue to work while Bashagha establishes a parallel government.
In this case, the possibility of Bashagha forming the government in Sirte, the hometown of ousted leader Moammar Gadhafi, to avoid the possibility of armed conflict is being discussed because some names, especially those who supported the eastern part of the country, had expressed their opinion about moving the capital to Sirte.
The possibility of Dbeibah withdrawing from the race is also being discussed, but it is considered a weak possibility. Dbeibah is seen as the prime minister who has served and invested the most in the country since the protests that started in 2011. He has quite high popular support in the west of the country.
The third possibility is that Mohammad Younes Menfi, the chairperson of the Libyan Presidential Council, dissolves the House of Representatives parliament, the Libyan State Supreme Council and the government and declares a state of emergency.
It would be difficult for Menfi, a former ambassador, and his assistants to muster the will to move forward with such a decision, and even if they do, the stable environment in the west of the country may deteriorate again.
Meanwhile, there is also the possibility that a third figure other than Dbeibah and Bashagha may form the government. However, there is no prominent political name on the horizon that all parties can accept, at least for now.