Libya: 10 things to know about Fathi Bashagha, the other Prime Minister

By Jihâd Gillon
Posted on Tuesday, 22 February 2022 09:41, updated on Monday, 2 May 2022 10:59

Fethi Bachagha, then interior minister, on 1 March 2020 in Tunis. © Mohamed Hammi/SIPA

Appointed Prime Minister after a vote by the house of representatives in Tobruk, Fathi Bashagha is expected to succeed Abdulhamid Dbeibeh. But the latter, who is still recognised by the UN, has no intention of giving up his position.

1. Former interior minister 

This early revolutionary with rectangular glasses served as interior minister during Fayez al-Sarraj’s government of national accord.

As such, he was at the forefront when Tripoli forces resisted Khalifa Haftar’s offensive in April 2019.

2. Ambitious

Fathi Bashagha has been very open about his desire to play a leading role in the Libya of tomorrow. This aspiration once put him at odds with Sarraj, who tried to sack him.

3. Misrata

Hailing from the powerful city of Misrata, which is home to some of the country’s best trained and equipped militias, he can count on the support of many of them, just like when he was briefly dismissed in August 2020.

4. The US

Libya’s unofficial prime minister has good contacts abroad, including in Washington, which, through its embassy in Tripoli, talked up the quality of its “partnership” with Bashagha when the latter was suspended from office.

5. Pragmatic

Seen as a figure of resistance to Haftar, and more generally eastern Libya’s institutions, Bashagha surprised many when he joined forces with Aguila Saleh, head of the house of representatives based in Tobruk, to present a joint candidacy for the Inter-Libyan Dialogue Forum in March 2021.

He was unsuccessful, as Dbeibeh won against all odds.

6. Arm wrestling

Ever since he was appointed prime minister by the house of representatives, Bashagha has been engaged in a tug of war with the current prime minister: businessman Dbeibeh, who is still recognised by the UN and also a Misrati.

7. Inclusive?

As soon as his nomination was announced, Bashagha held a press conference in Tripoli during which he promised that there would be “no room for revenge” in the new government.

8. Assassination attempt

Escaping assassination attempts is part of any prominent Libyan politician’s life. Bashagha is no exception, as his convoy was targeted in February on the outskirts of Tripoli.

9. France

For a moment he was at loggerheads with Paris, which he accused of supporting Haftar’s offensive against Tripoli. He has since made contacts in France, where he met foreign affairs minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and armed forces minister Florence Parly in November 2020.

He said that he wanted “to establish good relations with France.”

10. Unavoidable militias

When he was interior minister, his major mission was to integrate militias into the security forces. He was briefly suspended in August 2020, partly due to pressure from a Tripolitan militia.

He then returned to the Libyan capital, with help from the Misrata militias.

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