With Mitt Romney prepared to hunt down attackers in Libya, maybe we should clue in to how that country has reacted to the deadly assault on the US consulate in Benghazi. First of all, the newly elected Prime Minister has been given a vote of no confidence, which in Libya as in most Parliamentary democracies triggers the collapse of the government:
Libya’s prime minister-elect failed a confidence vote by an overwhelming margin on Sunday, removing him from office and throwing the country into yet more political uncertainty as time ticks on an investigation into attacks that killed four Americans last month [...]
Prime Minister-elect Mustafa Abushagur lost Sunday’s confidence vote with 125 members of the 200-member Libyan General National Congress voting against him, 44 in favor and the remainder abstentions or no-shows. Abushagur had come under heavy fire last week for proposing a cabinet that critics said was filled with political unknowns. Following the protests he came up with a new slate but lost the vote.
Now Libya’s legislature must select a new prime minister who will have to assemble another cabinet. The process could take weeks. Abushagur, a longtime engineering professor in the United States, became Libya’s first democratically-chosen prime minister since Sept. 12, a day after the attacks in Benghazi.
While US papers focus on what this means for the investigation into the consulate attacks, this hints at domestic factors as the cause, things like the inadequacy of the initial cabinet (in fact it was filled with former figures of the old Gadhafi regime). Still, Abushagur was Prime Minister for barely three weeks before his ouster.
Juan Cole argues that this represents democracy in action. Public opinion turned against Abushagur’s cabinet, leading to the no-confidence vote. The legislature got the message from their own citizens.
But this event does highlight the fractious nature of nascent Libyan politics – it’s the third government they’ve gone through this year – and the general instability that fosters. This is what Mitt Romney seeks to highlight today, this idea of an unsettled Middle East that must have order imposed on it. Considering that such a stance usually signals the rise of a dictatorship, I’d demur at that. But a little nation-building, to restore an invisible civic society, would probably help Libya.
Unfortunately, the attacks make that very difficult. The late US ambassador, Christopher Stevens, reportedly wanted his security team to stay on and guard him and his personnel after August 2, when they departed. The security team was a 16-man force of special operations soldiers.
The fear here is that the attack will force a total withdrawal from Libya, which will help create the conditions for chaos that everybody says they want to prevent.