Pro-NATO liberal coalition in Libya excluded from cabinet positions in new government
The Libyan Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur has nominated his cabinet for approval by the national congress. The nominees exclude members from the pro-NATO liberal coalition National Forces Alliance which won the most seats in a recent election
Abushagur was elected prime minister by the Libyan congress on September 12, narrowly beating his main opponent. Abushagur has many connections with the U.S. having lived there for several decades. He had a distinguished academic career as an engineering professor, and has launched businesses as well. He helped establish a branch of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Dubai.Abushagur's cabinet choices indicate he is attempting to achieve some type of geographical balance. Libya is notorious for regional rivalries that often threaten to tear the country apart.His transitional government will take over from an interim administration in which he was deputy prime minister and which was appointed last November. The Abushaqur government will run the day to day affairs of Libya. The national congress, elected in July, will pass new laws but is also charged with helping to draft a new constitution that will be voted on in a referendum next year.The lack of NFA representation in the cabinet is somewhat less surprising given the electoral system in Libya. Of the 200 seats available only 80 are available to political parties with the other 120 represented by independent candidates. Under Gadaffi, parties were banned on the ground they created disunity in the country. While the NFA won nearly half of the 80 seats for parties, the independents are regarded as more friendly on the whole to religious blocs. As a result, Abushagur has selected several cabinet members associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Only one woman was named to the cabinet, as minister of social affairs.The NFA had been led by the prime minister of the earlier transitional government Mahmoud Jibril. He had demanded at least nine of 20 available cabinet posts but ended up with none even though his group is part of the coalition government, at least nominally. Hamuda Siala, NFA spokesman, said that the coalition would still support Abushagar's cabinet choices if the group aims to improve security, and boost development. Given Abushagar's background he probably will try his best to ensure a certain degree of liberalization and also promote conditions for foreign investment. At the same time, he has to be aware of and negotiate the complex competing forces within Libyan politics.Perhaps Abushagar is reluctant to share power with the NFA since it was led by Mahmoud Jibril his opponent in the election for prime minister. Abushagar won that election 96 to 94. However, it might have been wiser to at given the group at least token representation in cabinet. Abushagar may be asking for more conflict with the group.