By George Grant.
Tripoli, 4 October:
Congressmen have reacted with fury at the proposed government of Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur and vowed to vote against its ratification.
The extraordinary level of unhappiness follows weeks of negotiations with various stakeholders and a prior pledge by Abushagur to form a government of national unity.
It had been widely assumed that the prime ministerial team had consulted extensively with a broad cross-section of Congress to ensure that his cabinet would meet with their approval, but it is expected that Abushagur will be forced to drop a number of names following meetings of Congress that begin this morning.
“This cabinet will need a miracle to pass”, said Abdurrahman Sewehli, leader of the Misrata-based Union for Homeland party, which holds two seats in Congress. “It is very clear he did not consult with members, and he certainly did not consult with me.
“Most of these names are not known to us, whilst many of those who are known to us we do not believe to be qualified for the job”.
Several other influential congressmen spoken to by the Libya Herald yesterday evening were of the same opinion.
“I can say with 100 per cent certainty that Congress will not vote for it”, said Ahmed Langi, a Benghazi congressman and one of the leaders of a recently established group of independent members.
“He [Abushagur] did not speak to me or almost any member of Congress until today.”
Mokhtar Elatrash, an independent congressman from Khoms, complained that there was particular resentment amongst those members who supported Abushagur’s bid to become prime minister last month. He won the vote in the narrowest of races, taking 96 votes to National Forces Alliance chief Mahmoud Jibril’s 94.
“He turned his back on those of us who voted for him, and people are outraged by that”, Elatrash said.
“Congress will reject the government as it currently stands. We thought Abushagur would be smarter than this. We cannot understand what happened. There are many people more qualified than those he chose who have not been included”.
The crisis in relations between Abushagur and Jibril also appeared to intensify last night after it emerged that not a single one of the NFA leader’s nine recommendations for ministerial posts was accepted.
After a sustained deadlock in negotiations between the two men, it was announced on 2 October that Jibril had finally agreed to support the government and would submit his nominations.
Several congressmen spoken to by the Libya Herald say that Jibril was too demanding in his requests, but the breakdown will doubtless make it still more difficult for Abushagur to get his current choices ratified.
A Congress source told this paper yesterday that when NFA Congressman Ibrahim Al-Ghariani saw the cabinet list, he tore the paper up and threw it at Abushagur in a fit of rage.
The only NFA member to make it onto the list is Feisal Krekshi, hitherto the alliance’s General Secretary and de facto number two, who has been proposed as minister of health. That he was not amongst Jibril’s choices appears to confirm previous speculation that he has indeed broken with the alliance chief, although it is still unconfirmed whether he remains part of the NFA or not.
Krekshi, who was one of the names repeatedly objected to by congressmen on account of his former ties with the Qaddafi regime, did not respond to repeated attempts to contact him yesterday evening.
Of all the congressmen spoken to by the Libya Herald, only one did not express a high level of dissatisfaction, although he stopped short of offering praise.
“Some people have been excluded and they are unhappy. That’s normal”, said Suleiman Zubi, an independent Congressman who formally headed up Benghazi’s local council elections commission. “We will negotiate this and I think this will be solved”.
Zubi said that with “two or three” changes, it would receive his support.
It is reckoned that of the major groupings in Congress, the Muslim Brotherhood is the most satisfied with the proposed government, with several of its members said to have been included.
After the NFA, the Brotherhood-linked Justice & Construction party is the largest political entity in Congress, having taken 17 seats in July’s elections. It is also known to have significant support from many individual candidates.
What is surprising, however, is just how little congressmen spoken to by the Libya Herald could say about specific members of the proposed government, lending credence to complaints of a lack of consultation.
In order to be ratified, Abushagur’s government will need the support of a majority in the 200-member Congress. The government will not be voted on as a whole, rather each proposed member will be discussed and voted upon separately.