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article imageOp-Ed: U.S. trained engineer elected as Libyan prime minister

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By Ken Hanly     Sep 13, 2012 in Politics
Tripoli - Mustafa Abu Shagour defeated the wartime rebel premier Mahmoud Jibril by just two votes 96 to 94. Shagour pursued an academic career in the U.S. and returned to Libya only last year. He also taught at the Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai.
The first order of business for Shagour will be to try and disarm the numerous militias in Libya who refuse to accept the authority of the central government. His negotiating skills will be put to the test. He is portrayed as a unity candidate who will work with liberals, Islamists, and independents when he takes over in October.
No doubt with the close vote there will be infighting as well as conflict with militia groups. After fighting to overthrow Gadaffi the militias are not about to give up the political power that grows out of the barrel of a gun without some significant quid pro quos. A new constitution for Libya also needs to be drawn up. There have been clashes with rival militias of late and revenge attacks upon former Gadaffi loyalists. There may be resentment as well that some former Gadaffi loyalists who joined the rebels are in positions of power. Now there is a prime minister with strong links to the U.S. This is not exactly what Islamic militia commanders were looking for even though it will draw cheers from western business interests and western liberals.
Instead of creating a national army and police the central government has often hired local militias to maintain law and order. Frederic Wehrey from the Carnegie Endowment notes:"The strategy of trying to dismantle the regional militias while simultaneously making use of them as hired guns might be sowing the seeds for the country's descent into warlordism." Robert Malley of the International Crisis Group (ICG) warned that the present situation could not continue:"This is not sustainable...The new government needs to take concrete steps to reform its security forces and establish structures of a functioning state. Anything less will perpetuate what already is in place: local disputes … in a fragmented and heavily armed landscape."
The national congress elected in July is charged with drafting a constitution to be voted on in a referendum next year.
In the national congress elected in July 80 seats were assigned to parties and the defeated presidential candidate's party the National Forces Alliance won almost half 39 out of 80 so Shagour will no doubt try to gain their cooperation in passing legislation. However, there are also 120 seats held by independents and he will need to deal with them as well. In the Gadaffi era political parties were banned.
Foreign companies are anxiously awaiting a government that will pass laws favorable to foreign investment and that will also create stability and adequate services. However it remains to be seen how much agreement there will be. Eastern Libya may demand more autonomy from the central government and there are many local tribal based groups who want their own shares of power. Shagour will have no easy task.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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