By George Grant.
Tripoli, 14 October:
Ali Zidan has been elected the new prime minister of Libya, just one week after the previous incumbent, Mustafa Abushagur, was dismissed by the National Congress in a vote of no confidence.
Zidan beat his rival Mohammed Al-Harari in a close-fought race, taking 93 votes to 85 in the Congress, with 179 members in attendance. One ballot was spoiled.
A former diplomat, Zidan was an outspoken opponent to Muammar Qaddafi for several decades before playing a significant role helping to mobilise international support for last year’s pro-democracy revolution.
Having been elected to Congress on an independent ticket in August, Zidan resigned from the post just a few days ago in order to run for the premiership. He previously stood unsuccessfully for election as speaker of Congress, losing out to Mohamed Magarief by 85 votes to 113.
The two men have worked together before. In the late 1970s, Zidan was a diplomat at the Libyan embassy in India under then-Ambassador Magarief. In 1980, both men announced their defection and went on to oppose Qaddafi in the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which Magarief led.
Zidan enjoyed the broad support of the National Forces Alliance, who also backed him in the speaker’s race, as well as a number of independents. Harari, who also had strong independent support, is known to have been the favoured candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood.
He will now have two weeks to submit his Cabinet, and it remains to be decided whether Congress will choose to maintain the same system of ratification as previously, in which every name on the list had to be voted on individually.