TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libya's new prime minister on Tuesday put forward a Cabinet for parliamentary approval, saying it represents the breadth of the country's political spectrum and includes members of the main liberal and Islamist parties.
Ali Zidan told the National General Congress that he tried to strike a geographic balance among different regions and cities. The proposed Cabinet faces a vote of confidence later in the day.
"I tried to put into consideration the element of geography and to avoid biases to a certain region against another," Zidan told parliament. "We don't want to repeat past mistakes or to provoke the street," he said.
Zidan, a former human rights lawyer chosen Oct. 14, is the second prime minister to be named by the 200-member parliament. Legislators dismissed his predecessor, Mustafa Abushaqur, after they said he had put forward unknown people for key Cabinet posts and proposed a government lacking diversity.
Zidan said he held talks with the country's political parties including the two biggest blocs in parliament, the Alliance of National Forces, led by liberal wartime Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, and the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, the Justice and Construction Party. Such talks are seen important to ensure that his 27-member Cabinet lineup passes the vote of confidence.
A year after the overthrow and death of Moammar Gadhafi, Libyans are seeking a broader distribution of political power among the country's three main regions, after decades of domination and discrimination by the dictator's highly centralized state based in the capital, Tripoli.
The next Cabinet faces the herculean task of reigning in a mushrooming number of armed groups, filled mostly with former rebel fighters who defeated Gadhafi's forces during last year's eight-month civil war. The government must also build state institutions such as the judiciary, police, military and others from scratch, and rebuild cities and towns demolished during the conflict.
The proposed Cabinet gives the interior and defense portfolios to ministers from Libya's second largest city, Benghazi, and reserves at least two posts for ministers from the third largest city, Misrata. Two proposed ministers are women.
The new Cabinet will also have to deal with the displacement of tens of thousands of residents of the western town of Bani Walid. The town, a stronghold of Gadhafi's loyalists, fell in a battle to pro-government forces last week.
After rounding up a number of suspects, pro-government militias withdrew from the town. Abdullah Boushnaf, named head of Bani Walid's city council, complained the government had no plan to fill the vacuum.
"We don't understand what is happening. The government made promises and said that there are plans to bring back the displaced, but nothing has happened until now. Looters are taking over everything from public to private properties," he said.
"The situation is disastrous," he added.
The chaos mounted with recent remarks from outgoing Defense Minister Osama al-Gweili, who claimed on Monday that the forces that took over Bani Walid were not under the government control, calling them just "militias."
Al-Gweili is from the western mountain town of Zintan, which has close ties with Bani Walid and whose fighters opposed military action against the town.
Al-Gweili's remarks underscore the absence of a clear mechanism of decision making by Libya's rulers.
Interim President Mohammed al-Megarif said earlier this month that the forces leading the offensive on Bani Walid had state backing, and his military chief of staff, Youssef al-Mangoush, said that he sent reinforcements. The contradictions show how tribal loyalties play major roles in decision making.
Violence has flared periodically over the last year in Bani Walid, a hilltop town that has resisted the regime that replaced Gadhafi.
Since the end of the civil war with Gadhafi's capture and killing last October, Bani Walid has changed hands twice. Rebels captured it at the end of the war, but shortly afterward, fighters loyal to Gadhafi rose up and expelled them and pro-revolution residents.