Libyan delegates at UN-facilitated talks outside Geneva on Friday made the surprise choice of Abdul Hamid Dbeibah as the transitional unity prime minister to take the war-ravaged country through to elections in December.
He was chosen along with a three-member presidency council to head a unity administration and steer the North African state towards the ballot box on December 24.
Dbeibah, the founder of the Libya al-Mostakbal movement, previously led the Libyan Investment and Development Company under ousted dictator Muammar Ghaddafi.
The vote is part of a complex process that is hoped will build on a fragile ceasefire and end more than a decade of conflict.
Oil-rich Libya has been torn by civil war since a NATO-backed uprising led to the toppling and killing of Ghaddafi in 2011.
"On behalf of the United Nations, I am pleased to witness this historic moment," said UN envoy Stephanie Williams, who facilitated the week-long talks outside Geneva, after announcing the result.
"The importance of the decision that you have taken here today will grow with the passage of time in the collective memory of the Libyan people."
Control of the country has been split between a Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli and the eastern-based House of Representatives backed by military leader Khalifa Haftar.
The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, comprised of 75 participants selected by the United Nations to represent a broad cross-section of society, chose Friday between proposed line-ups for the four leadership positions - the prime minister and three presidency council posts, which will represent the three main regions.
In a surprise in the final run-off, the list headed by Dbeibah beat that of Fathi Bashagha, the GNA's powerful interior minister, by 39 votes to 34.
Even if the appointment is a step forward in the political process, the new prime minister will quickly have to assert his legitimacy among myriad local political actors, some of whom have already distanced themselves from the Geneva talks.
The GNA prime minister Fayez al-Sarraj - appointed at the end of a previous UN process that was intended to be inclusive – took several months before even being able to reach the capital by sea from Tunisia due to security concerns.
He has since gradually won the support of many militias, especially in the capital, but never managed to impose his authority fully across the divided country.
Menfi leads presidency council
All of the prime ministerial candidates gave written pledges committing to an agreed roadmap towards holding national elections on December 24, and to respecting the results of that vote.
They also committed to appointing women to at least 30% of the senior leadership positions in the transitional government.
"That means ministers, deputy ministers - and I believe that should include deputy prime ministers," said Williams.
Diplomat Mohammad Younes Menfi will become the new president of the three-member presidency council. The former ambassador to Greece was expelled by Athens in December 2019 in protest against an agreement struck between the GNA and Turkey.
For transparency, the entire voting process was broadcast live by the UN.
According to the UN, the transitional council will be tasked with "reuniting state institutions and ensuring security" until the elections.
A fragile ceasefire agreed in Geneva in October has largely held, despite threats by Haftar to resume fighting.
The UN Security Council on Thursday instructed Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to deploy ceasefire monitors to Libya.
Malta hopes for united Libya
In a statement, Malta noted the result and sent its best wishes for a united and peaceful Libya, led by Libyans for the common good and prosperity of all Libyans.
It looked forward to further strengthening ties between the two countries, and to working hand in hand with Libya for the mutual benefit of Libya and Malta.
In another statement, the Nationalist Party hoped the process will continue for Libya to move towards stability and democracy.
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