Fathi Bashagha: The Libyan West's Most Powerful and Influential Prime Minister

Illustrated by Jeannette Khouri

In February, Libya's parliament chose the former interior minister Fathi Bashagha to lead a government that will replace interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah.

Bashagha ran against al-Dbeibah in the Political Dialogue Forum elections in February 2021. They also announced their candidacy for the country's presidential elections, which were set to take place at the end of last December.

Bashagha is a prominent and influential figure in Libya's Western region, both militarily and politically. When he announced his presidential candidacy, his electoral rhetoric focused on his ability to achieve security and economic reform in Libya.

Bashagha, 59, is from Misrata, a city on Libya's west coast that played a significant role in the overthrow of long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

Bashagha was a Libyan Air Force pilot until 1993, when he became a businessman, first importing construction supplies.

Following the outbreak of the uprising that toppled late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's rule in 2011, a committee known as the Judicial Committee was formed and summoned serving and resigned officers to form a military committee, with Bashagha becoming a member of the Military Council in Misrata.

During his time in the military council, he oversaw the Information and Coordinates department before becoming the Misrata Military Council's spokesman. In 2012, he was appointed to the National Reconciliation Commission's advisory committee and elected to the Misrati Shura Council.

In 2014, Bashagha was elected to the House of Representatives for the city of Misrata. For political reasons, he and a group of city representatives decided to boycott the parliament.

He was nominated to head the Libyan Government of National Accord's National Defense and Security Council, which was established under the chairmanship of Fayez al-Sarraj, based on the agreement signed between Libyan parties in the Moroccan city of Skhirat. In 2016, he served at the House of Representatives' Political Dialogue Committee.

Al-Sarraj issued a decision in October 2018 appointing Bashagha as Minister of Interior in the Government of National Accord, succeeding Brigadier General Abdel Salam Ashour.

While still in office, Bashagha was targeted for assassination in February 2021. That attack came just two weeks after a successful UN-led effort to form a new transitional government in an attempt to unite the country's political factions.

When he arrived in Benghazi at the end of last year, he spoke of the importance of "breaking the last barrier" for Libya's future. He expressed his gratitude for the visit, saying that it confirms that "Libya must be unified, and security and safety must return," which requires the participation of all Libyans.

Today, he is appointed as a transitional head of a Libyan government, which is supposed to lead the country to elections in accordance with the Libyan parliament's road map. By accepting this appointment, he represents an authority comparable to that of the Tripoli government led by al-Dbeibah, who, in turn, stuck to his platform, which he stated he would not abandon except in the face of an elected government.