Libyan interim PM pushes back against parliament in speech

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Libya’s interim prime minister pushed back against parliament’s threats to withdraw confidence from his unity government, saying in a speech its failure to approve his budget had set back the work of state.

Abdulhamid Dbeibeh, who took office in March, said the eastern-based parliament’s reasons for not approving his repeated budget proposals were “unrealistic and flimsy” and blamed the body for hindering planned December elections.

The budget dispute has emerged as a core element in the growing friction between rival political factions that has undermined a U.N.-backed process that had been seen as the best chance at peace in years.

Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh this week demanded that Dbeibeh appear before the chamber, elected in 2014, to be questioned about the performance of his government or face a no-confidence vote.

Amid worsening political gridlock, many Libyans fear that a process which had succeeded in creating a unified government for the first time in years is slipping backwards.

A failure to hold the election or a disputed outcome could end the political process and restart a conflict that has smashed swathes of Libya’s cities, drawn in major outside powers and left foreign mercenaries entrenched along front lines.

“The problem of the elections is not logistical, but an absolute legislative one. We presented a real program to facilitate and implement the electoral process,” Dbeibeh said.

Libya has had little peace since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising against Muammar Gaddafi and has been split between warring eastern and western factions since 2014.

Photo: Libya’s prime minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibeh EPA-EFE/STR