TRIPOLI, Libya – Libya’s Congress elected a human rights lawyer as interim prime minister on Sunday, a week after his predecessor was sacked for failing to present a Cabinet line-up that political factions could agree on.
Ali Zidan, also a former independent congressman, won 93 votes, securing a majority of those who voted in a poll to determine the country’s leader for a transitional period of around 20 months.
Zidan’s top priority will be to name a new government that Congress approves. The Cabinet will be faced with the daunting task of disarming thousands of young men who fought in last year’s eight-month civil war that led to the capture and killing of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The ministers will also be pressed to provide basic services, restore security by creating a military and police force capable of asserting authority over disparate militias left over from the war, and unifying the country’s tribes and towns.
One such militia, a radical Islamist group that now claims to have dissolved, has been linked to the attack last month on the U.S. Consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi that killed the American ambassador and three others. Feuds between cities and towns also flare up frequently.
Any prime minister who wants to impose his authority on the militias will need broad national support for his government – but such support is hard to obtain.
The 200-member congress selected Zidan following last week’s dismissal of Mustafa Abushagur after just 25 days in the post for failing to present a Cabinet list that satisfied legislators.