BENGHAZI, Libya — Lawmakers removed Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur from his post Sunday after rejecting his choice of cabinet ministers in the latest setback to Libya’s first elected government since the fall of Moammar Kadafi.
The parliament decisively voted down Abushagur’s proposal for a 10-member emergency cabinet to run the country for six months, three days after protesters stormed the national assembly to oppose his choice for a full cabinet because they claimed their cities were underrepresented.
Lawmakers will have to select a new prime minister, a process that could take several weeks while the country continues to suffer from lawlessness and drift after the eight-month civil war that toppled Kadafi last October. One potential candidate could be Mahmoud Jibril, the former transitional prime minister whom Abushagur edged out in winning the post.
The deadly Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in eastern Libya underscored the country’s security vacuum, with heavily armed militants easily overrunning the compound and then disappeared into the night. Libyan authorities did not name any suspects, though an undisclosed number reportedly have been detained, and U.S. investigators visited the site for the first time last week after lengthy delays in obtaining approval from authorities in the capital, Tripoli.
“The new government isn’t interested in governing -– they are only interested in counting their posts and lining their pockets,” said Hamad Bougrain, a spokesman for the February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade, one of several militias in the eastern city of Benghazi that have stepped in to provide security in the absence of a credible police force.
Abushagur, a former engineering professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, was elected to his post last month and considered a middle-of-the-road candidate who could unite Islamists and secular Libyans. But the opposition to his cabinet picks reflected the deep animosities among cities and tribes that linger from Kadafi’s four decades of divide-and-rule tactics.
Abushagur was due to present nominations for a full 29-member cabinet Thursday but dozens of protesters from the western town of Zawiya, which was heavily bombarded by pro-Kadafi forces during the civil war, stormed the assembly building demanding greater representation. Some of the protesters also complained that too many ministries had been assigned to the Muslim Brotherhood, which lost out to liberal parties in parliamentary balloting in July.
Abushagur was forced to withdraw his cabinet picks and the parliament gave him 72 hours to present a new slate.
Before the vote Sunday evening, Abushagur said he had selected 10 nominees for an emergency cabinet that would serve for six months and called on the legislative body, the General National Congress, to “assume its responsibilities at this historic time.”
The congress voted 125 to 44 in favor of removing him, with 19 abstentions.
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Photo: Ousted Libyan Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur. Credit: Sabri Elmhedwi / EPA