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Former Ambassador Manfi to head new interim government

Politicians and civic activists agree on a national unity government to prepare for elections at the end of this year 

The vote in Geneva on 5 February to establish an interim government of national unity to replace the two rival administrations paves the way for elections on 24 December, ending a decade of conflict and power-struggles. The new administration now has to convince Libyans across the country and the foreign powers which have been backing rival factions based in Tripoli and Benghazi.

Mohamed Younes Manfi, a former ambassador to Greece from eastern Libya, is to lead a three-member presidency council having topped the poll of 74 members of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) at the meeting in Geneva by five votes. Abdel Hamid Dubaiba, a prominent businessman from Misrata, will be the transitional prime minister (AC Vol 61 No 22, Hope without optimism for the new deal). UN acting Special Representative Stephanie Williams played a key role in brokering the negotiation over the structure of the new government.

Manfi was expelled from Athens in December 2019, and it is unclear whether he will command support from the European Union's divided member states, notably Greece and France, who had been the main supporters of General Khalifa Haftar, head of the eastern-based militia, the Libyan National Army, in the civil war.

The outcome is seen as a setback for eastern heavyweights, most obviously Aguila Saleh Issa, the speaker of Libya's House of Representatives (HoR) who had been lobbying hard for the presidency, who saw his slate with Fathi Bashagha narrowly defeated. It may spell the end of Haftar's political ambitions, though his rival in the civil war, Faiez el Serraj, the leader of the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA), has also been excluded from the new leadership. 

The hopeful backdrop is that the ceasefire has held since October together with signs that the losers of the vote will accept the result (AC Vol 62 No 3, Jagged path to elections). What happens now to the old guard in Tripoli and Benghazi?

Serraj had wanted to stay in charge of the GNA in Tripoli until the December elections, despite earlier promising to retire. And the LPDF vote for Manfi in the new government could be challenged as illegitimate by Haftar. The HoR still has to ratify the Geneva agreement.

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