Middle East

Libyan assembly rejects second cabinet, dismisses PM

US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Beth Jones (L) shares a laugh with Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur during a meeting in Tripoli on October 2, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/MAHMUD TURKIA)

TRIPOLI: Libyan premier Mustafa Abu Shagur was dismissed Sunday after the General National Congress rejected his proposed “crisis” cabinet of just 10 ministers, days after his first lineup was also turned down.

The embattled Abu Shagur, who had been given 72 hours to come up with a new cabinet, was relieved of his duties after his last chance to form a government, and the GNC will have to elect a new premier within the next three to four weeks.

Before he had even put forward his second cabinet list in just four days, a motion of no confidence in Abu Shagur was signed by 126 assembly members. That was rejected by the GNC president.

But when his pared-down list was put to the vote, 125 members of the 186 members present in the 200-seat GNC did not express “confidence” in his choices, against 44 members for and 17 abstentions, according to a live state television broadcast.

Under GNC rules, the assembly will now have to elect a new premier.

“In face of the dangers threatening the country, I present to you a crisis government restricted to 10 ministers, rejecting all geographical considerations,” Abu Shagur told the GNC.

He proposed a defector colonel who led the rebellion in the east against late dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year as defense minister and a police general for the Interior Ministry.

He was taking neither geographical nor political considerations into account, Abu Shagur claimed, criticizing the assembly for rejecting his original choices.

“The first government was not perfect. And we should have discussed and modified it,” he said.

“I will not assume responsibility for a team that is not of my own liking,” he said, and called on the GNC to “assume its responsibilities at this historic time.”

Abu Shagur also accused assembly members of blackmail.

“The political parties have decided to withdraw their confidence in me,” he said, alluding to rumors of a deal between the rival liberal National Forces Alliance coalition and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party.

The NFA of wartime premier Mahmud Jibril was left off Abu Shagur’s first cabinet list after failed negotiations, and the two blocs were reported to have agreed to form a unity government.

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

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

The first 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.

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

Abu Shagur, a technocrat, won his post on Sept. 12 by a small margin in a runoff vote against Jibril.

He was committed to forming a government of consensus and said he negotiated with all parties. But he also had to tackle fallout from a deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi on Sept. 11 and protests calling for the disarming of militias

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

Analysts said Abu Shagur faced an uphill task in forming a new government.

“The first challenge is security,” Jason Pack, a Libyan history researcher at Britain’s Cambridge University and president of the online repository, said.

“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.”

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 08, 2012, on page 1.




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