In a statement on Wednesday, Libya’s eastern strongman Khalifa Haftar named an interim replacement as head of the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army (LNA) until December 24, the date of the legislative and presidential vote.
Haftar who heads the eastern-based LNA and waged war against western factions after the country split in 2014, tried to take Tripoli in a 14-month offensive that was repelled last year after devastating destruction in the capital.
Libyan media said the step paves the way for Haftar to run as a presidential candidate under a controversial new law.
National elections were pushed as a way to end Libya’s decade-long crisis, but have been enmeshed in bitter arguments over legitimacy that may unravel a month-long peace process.
The election was mandated last year by the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum, a UN-backed assembly that set a plan for peace in Libya, a major oil producer, through its installation of a unity government and holding a nationwide vote.
Although the eastern-based parliament agreed to the unity government in March, important elements of the plan have since stalled and on Tuesday the parliament said it had withdrawn confidence from Prime Minister Abdelhamid Dbeibah.
Few weeks ago, speaker of the parliament Aguila Saleh approved a presidential election law with a controversial clause that analysts said was tailored to allow him and Haftar to run for office without risking their existing positions.
A Tripoli-based advisory body, the High Council of State, has rejected the parliament’s election law, raising the likelihood that any vote will be contested as illegal.
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