TRIPOLI (Bloomberg) — Libya’s prime minister-elect is seeking 13 new Cabinet nominees after his first choices were rejected by lawmakers and protesters stormed the country’s new legislature.
The decision, announced by Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur’s spokesman in an interview Thursday, came hours after the National Congress postponed a scheduled vote on the nominations until a new list had been submitted. The Cabinet, unveiled Wednesday, included largely unknown figures and took little account of demands made by the country’s political groups and regions. About 200 protesters from the western city of Zawiya stormed the National Congress’ building to complain their region was not represented on the 29-name list.
The rejection of the nominees and the protests reflect the country’s fragile political situation in the year since Moammar Gadhafi was ousted and killed in a bloody uprising. Libya’s interim government has pushed to restore some semblance of order and revive the economy - efforts stymied by factionalism as militias refused to disarm and regional interests predominated.
Rajab Khalil, a deputy economy minister from Zawiya, said in an interview that those involved in Thursday’s demonstrations were outraged that Abushagur ignored their region in the Cabinet appointments.
Abushagur “talked about a national unity government that represents all of Libya’s region, but he has forgotten some of the regions, including Zawiya,” he said. “We’re not protesting over the nominations; we’re calling for his resignation.”
Wednesday’s Cabinet list included three deputy premiers representing the country’s three main regions. The prime minister-elect, who was named by the National Congress last month, has been struggling to form a government even as authorities try to disarm and disband the militias following the deadly assault on the U.S. consulate on Sept. 11.
He had been given a deadline of Oct. 7 to form the government or risk being dismissed by lawmakers. The deadline had been extended from its initial end-of-September limit.
“We have been asked to change 13 names, and we will try to do so by the end of the day,” Mohamed Al-Akari, Abushagur’s spokesman, said by phone. “We’re not sure that we will manage” to get the list done Thursday.
Al-Akari did not specify who among the proposed ministers would be replaced.
The parliamentary decision exposed the difficulty of finding agreement in a body in which no one group secured a majority.
“There were a lot of talks last night, and many congressmen are upset” by the nominations, Yusuf Magarief, the media adviser for the president of the legislature, said by phone, without elaborating. A vote may be organized for Oct. 6 or Oct. 7 if new candidates are proposed, he said.
The majority of the names on the list are largely unknown to most Libyans, reflecting what analysts such as AKE Group’s Alan Fraser said was an attempt by Abushagur to avoid links to the National Transitional Council that took over after Gadhafi’s downfall.
The newly elected parliament wants “to distance themselves from any negatives associated with the NTC - alleged corruption, cronyism - and anyone that could be accused of ties to the former regime,” Fraser, a Libya analyst for the Hereford, Britain-based security company, said in an emailed response to questions.
Abushagur offered few concessions to one of the most powerful groups in the new legislature.
The National Forces Alliance, headed by Mahmoud Jibril, won the single largest bloc of seats in the legislature and yet saw only one of its nine Cabinet picks nominated, Salma Al-Hek, an NFA lawmaker, said in an interview. Al-Hek said the party was “very disappointed” by Abushagur’s choices.
The premier-elect nominated Al-Mabrouk Eissa Abu Haroura as oil minister while tapping Abdusalam Jadallah Al-Salheen Saleh Obedie, as defense minister. Obedie was a field commander from Benghazi who took part in the uprising against Gadhafi, Guma Mishri, a high-ranking police officer, said in an interview Wednesday.