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A jolt to Libya's new democracy – but some progress, too

Libya's congress tossed out the prime minister-elect yesterday, casting uncertainty over the country's progress as it gains stability and nears pre-war levels of oil output.

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Libya's Prime Minister Mustafa Abu Shagur attends a news conference in Tripoli September 27.

Ismail Zitouny/Reuters

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Libya’s nascent democracy was jolted yesterday as the national congress rejected prime minister-elect Mustafa Abu Shagur's second proposed cabinet in less than a week and then tossed him out, too – all in the name of national unity.

A lifelong anti-Qaddafi dissident, Mr. Abu Shagur had appeared to be a strong candidate to head Libya’s first democratic government. But analysts say he failed to build political support in a country with strong regional and tribal loyalties.

His removal also points to a degree of immaturity among Libya’s new political class, says Henry Smith, a Middle East and North Africa analyst at Control Risks, a British risk analysis firm. He describes the move as “essentially holding the national political process to ransom with parochial demands for representation.”

Rough-and-tumble politics

Rough-and-tumble politics are to be expected in a country still learning democracy after four decades of one-man rule. But analysts say the costs could be high.

Until a government is in place with a democratic mandate, the hard work of developing the country will be even harder. Among key tasks are drafting a new constitution, improving public services, and reforming laws to secure civil and commercial rights – all of which could help attract more foreign investment.

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