ANALYSIS: Libyan PM faces political minefield to form Cabinet

AFP, TRIPOLI

Mon, Oct 08, 2012 - Page 6

Libyan Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abu Shagur faced an uphill task in naming a government yesterday that balances regional and political interests while also tackling multiple security issues, analysts said.

The embattled leader 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.

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

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.”

Residents of the east and south complain they were marginalized for 42 years under former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi before the conflict last year that toppled his regime and killed him.

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 the proposal.

“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 6 million people,” Binda said.

When they finally met, GNC representatives 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,” said Miftah Buzeid, editor of a Benghazi newspaper.

Last month, after an attack in the eastern city killed the US ambassador, tens of thousands of Libyans rose up, calling for a national army and police force and an end to militias of former rebels.

Buzeid said the line-up sparked outrage because it included at least 13 figures who were part of last year’s wartime executive committee or players in the outgoing and unpopular government of Libyan Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib.

Abu Shagur won his post on Sept. 13 by a small margin in a run-off vote against former wartime prime minister Mahmud Jibril, who leads the largest liberal coalition in the assembly, the National Forces Alliance (NFA).

Abu Shagur says he is committed to a government of consensus and negotiated with all parties.

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

The NFA was not included in the proposed Cabinet because of disagreements over conditions, but gave its blessing.

The Justice and Construction Party slammed the proposed line-up before it came up for discussion.

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

The analysts said there is a risk the GNC will withdraw its backing from Abu Shagur if his next Cabinet line-up is found unsatisfactory.