Islamist-backed businessman named Libya PM

TRIPOLI, Libya (Update 3) – Libya's interim parliament named Islamist-backed businessman Ahmed Miitig as prime minister on May 5, Monday, after a chaotic session of the assembly in the strife-ridden North African country.

The General National Congress said it had ratified the 42-year-old's appointment, in a move that would make him Libya's youngest and fifth premier since long-time autocrat Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a 2011 uprising.

"Ahmed Omar Miitig was appointed head of the transitional government, and asked to form his cabinet and present it to the GNC for a confidence vote within 15 days," said the text of a decision signed by speaker Nuri Abu Sahmein.

It is unclear, however, if the move will end a political and legal dispute over his election after it was rejected by several MPs and the deputy speaker, Ezzedine al-Awami.

A parliamentary deputy, Tahar al-Mokni, indicated there were still doubts about the appointment.

The speaker, he said, had been absent from Sunday night's session of the GNC to vote on Miitig's appointment.

And Abu Sahmein has not been seen in public for weeks, with some MPs demanding his resignation over suspected involvement in a "moral" scandal.

The GNC indicated Abu Sahmein was abroad for unspecified treatment.

Contacted by Agence France-Presse on Monday, the spokesman for the outgoing government, Ahmed Lamine, was unable to comment on Miitig's appointment.

Since the 2011 uprising, successive governments in the oil-rich country have struggled to impose order as heavily armed former rebel brigades have carved out their own fiefdoms and refused to join the security forces.

Dangerous job

The job of prime minister has proven challenging and dangerous – Ali Zeidan, who was voted out by parliament for failing to prevent a rebel oil shipment in March, was kidnapped by gunmen last year and held for hours before being released.

Last month Zeidan's defence minister Abdullah al-Thani was appointed to replace him but stepped down after just five days, saying he and his family had come under attack.

State television broadcast footage from Sunday's chaotic session, the second in a week to decide between two candidates.

After an initial meeting on April 27, parliament gathered again on Tuesday, when Miitig won 67 votes in a first round with Benghazi university professor Omar al-Hassi second with 34 votes.

A second round of voting on Tuesday was interrupted by gunmen who stormed into parliament for reasons that are still unclear, shooting and forcing deputies to evacuate the premises.

On Sunday, the GNC vice president Awami said Miitig defeated Hassi by 73 votes to 43 but he mustered only 113 of the 120 required for a vote of confidence.

In a statement posted later on the government's website, Awami declared the vote of confidence "void and illegal".

However Awami's deputy, Salah al-Makhzum, later announced the relatively unknown businessman had clinched 121 votes in the 185-seat assembly, apparently after a recount.

Some deputies denounced the recount, which they said took place after the session had officially closed.

Analyst Miftah Abuzid said the GNC's decisions had been "imposed" by Islamists, and suggested that their goal was "a non-democratic state".

The GNC was elected in July 2012 for an 18-month term, but in February it extended its mandate to December, sparking widespread protests.

Parliament's Islamist supporters were in favor of the extension while the liberal National Forces Alliance slammed the move as undemocratic.

Under pressure from the street, the GNC agreed to give way to the formation of a new parliament, although an election date has yet to be fixed.

Militants have carried out near-daily attacks on security forces, particularly in the restive eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the uprising that ended Kadhafi's four-decade rule.

Miitig has vowed to rebuild state institutions, namely the army and police. –