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Libya’s Rival PM Sees Politics Hindering Oil Production All Year

·3 min read

(Bloomberg) --

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Libya has little chance of holding elections this year, the parliament-backed prime minister said, raising the prospect of further uncertainty for the OPEC member’s oil industry just as the market is in urgent need of its crude.

Fathi Bashagha, who’s engaged in a standoff over the premiership with Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, predicted the political upheaval is likely to continue through 2022, deepening a rift in the North African nation’s fragile institutions.

Without a unified government, “there will be no elections and chaos will continue,” Bashagha said in a video interview. The former interior minister, however, downplayed the possibility of civil war re-erupting in the country that’s trying to emerge from a decade of conflict.

More turmoil would worsen a headache for global markets that are already short of Libyan crude after a wave of port and oil-field shutdowns started in April by protesters in a bid to force Dbeibah out. Crude prices have surged around 50% this year to $110 a barrel.

The National Oil Corp. has been silent on production, stirring speculation. The oil minister, who has a fractious relationship with the NOC, says output has plunged to a daily 100,000-200,000 barrels from as much as 1.3 million last year.

Bashagha said he has no current oil production figure, but that his government’s spending blueprint includes 34 billion dinars ($7 billion) requested by the corporation to enact a two-year plan to boost output to more than 1.7 million daily barrels.

Control of Libya’s oil wealth has been a major obstacle to stability since the 2011 NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moammar Al Qaddafi, with militias and protesters using stoppages to push political demands. Bashagha was, along with Dbeibah and a Qaddafi son, among the would-be candidates for a presidential vote scheduled for last December. That ballot was canceled amid fears of fresh strife.

Many lawmakers argued Dbeibah’s mandate was invalid after the vote didn’t take place, picking Bashagha to replace him. Bashagha in May attempted to enter the capital, Tripoli, to press his claim, only for violence to erupt between rival militias and force his withdrawal.

He’s now setting up in the Mediterranean coastal city of Sirte, evoking memories of the roughly seven-year period from 2014 when Libya was split between rival administrations. He said he’s still seeking to govern as premier from Tripoli, but wouldn’t run in any future elections.

Bashagha also said:

  • He has no intention of entering Tripoli by force, unless there’s a threat of “terrorism.” He didn’t elaborate.

  • The recent oil blockades are “a direct result of the injustice the people living in the oil crescent have been and are still suffering to this day”

  • People in the east “are angry and unsatisfied with the state and as long as justice is not addressed and revenues are not distributed fairly, closures of oil will continue.”

  • If he takes office in Tripoli, he would rotate the government between there and Sirte in a bid to address peoples’ concerns over regional marginalization

  • He’s confident Libya’s central bank will approve a 84 billion dinar budget passed by the parliament that supports him

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