x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Libya's caretaker deputy lauds poll results

Former Dubai resident Dr Mustafa Abushagur says outcome will be a good lesson in democracy, as no party has won dominance.

Dr Mustafa Abushagur, the interim deputy prime minister of Libya, said he will remain as deputy prime minister until a new government is formed.
Dr Mustafa Abushagur, the interim deputy prime minister of Libya, said he will remain as deputy prime minister until a new government is formed.

DUBAI // Dr Mustafa Abushagur, the interim deputy prime minister of Libya, has welcomed the results of the country's first free national elections for 60 years.

Dr Abushagur, who lived in Dubai for more than three years before returning home last November, said it was a positive that no single party had a dominant position.

"The major thing is that I don't think any party has a majority to be able to work on their own," he said.

"This is very important, because one of the things our people have to learn is that part of democracy is to work together regardless of whether they have different opinions.

"I have no worries at all about them being able to learn how to do this. Democracy is something very new for our people and so far they have proven that they can make it work.

"We are very pleased with the way the election went and the participation of the people. It took place in a very, very peaceful environment.

"People looked at it as a huge celebration, like Eid. They were so excited and so enthusiastic, and we were very happy with that."

Dr Abushagur was speaking from Tripoli after Tuesday's release of the election results for a new national assembly.

The moderate National Forces Alliance, led by the former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, won 39 of the 80 seats reserved for political parties, while the Justice and Construction Party, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, gained 17.

The other 120 seats have been filled by independent candidates and the assembly's alignment will depend on their allegiances, which are not yet clear.

Members will serve in the first elected government since Muammar Qaddafi seized power in 1969.

Dr Abushagur, who was president of the Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai, said he was looking forward to handing over his post to an elected successor.

"I will remain as deputy prime minister until they form a new government, which will be another four to six weeks," he said.

"There are two weeks for any disputes regarding the results, and after that the assembly will meet and organise their house by selecting a chairman and other members. Then they will get to the point where they appoint a prime minister who will form a government.

"We are very excited about this process because we would like our people to realise that we have changed from one person ruling the country for 42 years to a peaceful transition from one government to the next one."

Dr Abushagur said he felt overwhelmed with emotion as he cast his vote in Tripoli on July 7.

"I visited one of the polling centres and I met a lady who was 95 years old, and she was so excited to come and vote, even though she didn't know who to vote for," he said.

"She just wanted to be there as she felt she was playing a part in history - and she was."

As a member of the government Dr Abushagur was not allowed to stand in the election, although he did not rule it out for the future. He is on leave from the faculty of the Rochester Institute of Technology in the US.

"At the moment I don't have very solid plans for what I'm going to do after this," he said. "I came here to serve Libya and if I find a way to continue to do that, I will.

"It was an honour for me to be part of this government and to serve my people."

csimpson@thenational.ae