Libya's factions head into run-off on interim government

Delegates form Libya’s warring sides are narrowing down the candidates for their interim government to two lists

CAIRO -- Delegates form Libya’s warring sides on Friday narrowed down the candidates for their interim government to two lists, each representing key provinces of the war-stricken country, the United Nations said.

As no list secured the required 60% of votes from the delegates in the first round, a run-off was expected between the two lists with the highest number of votes, said the U.N. mission in Libya.

The voting is taking place under the mediation of the U.N. secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, in hopes of bringing stability to the North African country that has been largely lawless since Moammar Gadhafi’ was toppled and killed in 2011.

Since 2015, Libya has been divided between two governments, one in the east and another in the west of the country, each backed by a vast array of militias. In April 2019, Khalifa Hifter, a military commander allied with the eastern government, launched an offensive to capture the capital, Tripoli. His campaign failed after 14 months of fighting. In October, the U.N. convinced both parties to sign a cease-fire agreement and embark on a political dialogue.

Each of the two final lists has candidates for the three-member Presidency Council and the post of prime minister.

The list that got the highest number of votes in the first round earlier Friday includes Aguila Saleh, the politically savvy speaker of Libya's eastern parliament who is running for president of the Presidential Council. The same list includes Fathi Bashagha, the powerful interior minister in the western government who hopes to seize the premiership. Saleh and Bashaga's list, which secured 25 votes, is believed to be backed by foreign countries including the U.S., Turkey and Egypt.

The runner-up list has Mohammad Younes Menfi, a Libyan diplomat with a support base in the country's east, as a nominee for the presidency of the Presidential Council. It also has as a premier hopeful, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah, a powerful businessman backed by western tribes.

The threshold for the second round is a simple majority of 50% plus one vote, the U.N. mission said.