Libyan Premier Ousted After Lawmakers Reject Cabinet

Libya’s Prime Minister-elect Mahmoud Abushagur
“I was going to form a national unity government, not based on quotas, but then there was pressure on me, people wanted ministers from their regions,” Libya’s Prime Minister-elect Mahmoud Abushagur told parliament today. Photographer: Mahmud Turkia/AFP/Getty Images

Libyan lawmakers were to meet today to weigh their options after rejecting a revised Cabinet list submitted by Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur and firing him from his post.

Abushagur, who earlier presented a “crisis cabinet” of 10 people to lead Libya, was defeated in a no-confidence motion late yesterday, less than a month after he took office. He faced a challenge of appeasing the various political groups in a country where the central government has wielded little authority in the year since Muammar Qaddafi’s ouster.

The premier-elect had faced an already-extended Oct. 7 deadline for the new Cabinet after the National Congress rejected his earlier list. Much of the criticism revolved around different groups or factions looking to secure representation for their regions in the Cabinet -- a demand Abushagur said undercut his efforts.

“I was going to form a national unity government, not based on quotas,” he told Parliament in Tripoli yesterday. “But then there was pressure on me. People wanted ministers from their regions.”

Abushagur called on lawmakers to work quickly to select a new prime minister and form a government “so the country is not left with a political vacuum during this period.”

The legislature’s head, Mohammed Magariaf, said in televised comments yesterday that the body would meet again today to discuss how to proceed.

No Surprise

The latest rejection and protests by demonstrators who say their regions are unrepresented in the government reflect Libya’s fragile political situation since last year’s bloody uprising. The interim government has pushed to restore order and revive the economy, efforts stymied by factionalism as militias refused to disarm and regional interests predominated.

“The collapse of the Libyan government should have surprised nobody,” said Aaron David Miller of the Washington-based research group Woodrow Wilson Center. “Anybody who believed that Libya was going to be the poster child for easy transitions and good governance wasn’t focused on the tribal and regional divisions that will impede stability.”

Libya in particular has no experience of self-rule because of Qaddafi’s “bizarre one-man cult rule,” Miller said. “The country has too many guns and grievances, militias and malcontents for that.”


Christopher Chivvis, a senior political strategist with the Rand Corporation in Washington, called yesterday’s events “another challenge that Libya doesn’t need right now.”

“The thing to watch is how quickly they’re able to try again and potentially succeed, and I have no way of judging whether they’ll be able to do that,” Chivvis said.

Abushagur had earlier proposed that ministries without named heads would be grouped under the premier’s office and supervised directly by the deputy prime minister. He withdrew the initial slate of names on Oct. 4, the same day more than 100 protesters from the western city of Zawiya forced their way into the congress building. Congress must approve Cabinet choices.

The Cabinet selection unveiled on Oct. 3 included largely unknown figures and took little account of demands made by the country’s political groups and regions. The list included three deputy premiers representing the country’s three main regions.

Abushagur struggled to form a government amid attempts by authorities to disband militias following an Sept. 11 assault on the American Consulate in Benghazi that left U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three colleagues dead. The U.S. has blamed the attack, which took place during a protest against a U.S.-made anti-Islamic film, on terrorists.

Libya must overhaul its security industry and tackle economic and political issues, and “until they have a government in place they can’t do it,” Chivvis said.

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