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Libya PM under pressure to offer new government

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Abu Shagur might be relieved of his duties, new elections for the PM post might take place

Shagur won his post on September 13 by a small margin in a run-off vote against wartime premier Mahmud Jibril (AFP/File, Mahmud Turkia)

Shagur won his post on September 13 by a small margin in a run-off vote against wartime premier Mahmud Jibril (AFP/File, Mahmud Turkia)

TRIPOLI (AFP)— Libya’s Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur was expected on Sunday to name a new government after his first proposed line-up was rejected outright by the assembly and harshly criticised by lawmakers.

“The assembly is expected to vote on the new government in the afternoon. But there will be long discussions,” a source close to the premier told AFP.

The embattled premier was granted 72 hours to build consensus and deliver an amended cabinet list after the General National Congress (GNC) rejected his first proposed line-up late on Thursday.

If the new cabinet list is rejected on Sunday, Abu Shagur will be relieved of his duties and the GNC will have to elect a new prime minister within the next three to four weeks.

More than 100 protesters stormed the national assembly’s headquarters on Thursday, demanding greater representation for the western town of Zawiyah and reportedly calling for Abu Shagur’s resignation.

Residents of the east and south complain they were marginalised for 42 years under Kadhafi before the 2011 conflict that toppled his regime and killed him.

“The government didn’t represent all the sectors or regions of Libyan society. It was thrown together arbitrarily and on the basis of friendships,” Abdelali al-Dersi, who represents the eastern town of Al-Bayda in the assembly, said referring to the first line-up proposed by Abu Shagur.

The list of 29 ministers, including one woman, included several members of the transitional government and many unknown figures, while there were no representatives of the main liberal coalition.

When they finally met, GNC representatives on Thursday lambasted Abu Shagur’s ministerial choices, calling them either incompetent, unknown, or remnants from the previous transitional government.

“The interior ministry — the most important portfolio at a time when the demand from the streets is security — went to a complete unknown,” noted Miftah Buzeid, analyst and editor of a newspaper in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Abu Shagur was committed to forming a government of consensus and says he negotiated with all parties. But he also had to tackle fallout from an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi on September 11 and anti-militia protests.

The attack led to the killing of four Americans, including ambassador Chris Stevens.

Abu Shagur, a technocrat, won his post on September 12 by a small margin in a run-off vote against wartime premier Mahmud Jibril, who leads the largest liberal coalition in the assembly, the National Forces Alliance.

A national unity government would need the backing of the NFA, which was left off the cabinet list after failed negotiations, as well as the second largest party, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party.

Buzeid said the line-up sparked outrage because it included at least 13 figures who were part of the 2011 wartime executive committee or players in the outgoing and unpopular government of premier Abdel Rahim al-Kib.

“He was Kib’s deputy so he brings nothing new,” said Buzeid. “The cabinet he proposed was based on loyalty and friendships.”

Analysts said Abu Shagur faces an uphill task.

“The first challenge is security,” said Jason Pack, a Libyan history researcher at Cambridge University and president of online repository libya-analysis.com

“The central government does not yet have sufficient military capacity to provide adequate security for its own parliamentary offices, let alone for the complex process of disarming and demobilising the hundreds of militias,” he added.

Carlo Binda, director of the US-based National Democratic Institute’s Libya branch, said Abu Shagur to his credit had “shown sensitivity and political sophistication by appointing deputies and ministers from each of the regions.”

Binda downplayed the Zawiyah protest’s significance, saying it reflected one “local grievance,” and stressed that regional and tribal politics were not the main reason the GNC rejected his proposed cabinet.

“It was rejected for a collection of reasons… You can’t possibly satisfy each and every interest when trying to compose a cabinet. Then you would have a cabinet of six million people,” Binda said.

Pack agreed: “Anyone in Abu Shagur’s position would be hard-pressed to come up with a list that could please everybody.”

Parties hold only 80 of the GNC’s 200 seats, with 120 for independent representatives, elected in small regional constituencies, who ultimately have the power to make or break the next government.

Under the transition plan for Libya, a new government will be in power for roughly a year only, until fresh elections on the basis of a new constitution are held.


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