TRIPOLI Protesters who believed their town was underrepresented in a proposed Libyan government stormed the national assembly on Thursday as it prepared to scrutinize the prime minister-elect's nominations.
Libya's first democratic government since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi has already proved controversial as Mustafa Abushagur's nominees exclude the biggest party in congress, the liberal National Forces Alliance (NFA).
Between 100 and 150 demonstrators from the western town of Zawiyah walked into the hall where congress meets, forcing the cancellation of a session to study the nominations.
"After we heard the list, everyone in Zawiyah was angry. Some even began protesting in Zawiyah's main square last night," said Nuri Shambi, who travelled 50 km (30 miles) to the capital Tripoli to voice his anger.
"Abushagur said he would form a coalition government, that he would look at experience. Zawiyah proposed candidates for oil minister, but he's brought in someone who is not well known."
The protesters eventually left the hall but remained outside. A session was set for later on Thursday to determine the procedure for voting on the candidates in an assembly still finding its feet after Libya's first democratic election in July.
Abushagur's line-up includes many unknown names, including the proposed oil minister, Mabrouk Issa Abu Harroura.
While Abushaghur says he is politically "neutral", the line-up is said to include several members of the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ibrahim al-Gharyani, head of the NFA in congress, said there were no candidates from his alliance.
Congress spokesman Omar Hmaidan said several congress members had already voiced dissatisfaction with the nominations. Abushagur can propose alternatives until Sunday if any choices are rejected.
The NFA's leader, wartime rebel prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, lost out narrowly to Abushagur in the congress vote for the next head of government.
Although the NFA is easily the biggest political grouping with 39 out of the 80 party seats in the assembly, another 120 seats are in the hands of independents whose leanings may start to become clear as they vote on the cabinet.
"We need a political government. Many of these people are not known," congress member Mohammed Saleem said.
Another congress member echoed that, adding: "Those who are known to us have little experience."
The NFA had asked in vain for nine ministries and the inclusion of its program in the next government. NFA spokesman Hamuda Siala said it would support Abushagur's cabinet "as long as it aims to serve Libya's national interest, improve security and boost development".
Abushagur's transitional government will take over from an interim administration appointed last November in which he was deputy prime minister.
He picked three deputy prime ministers from the western mountain town of Zintan, from the south and from the east in an attempt to ensure broad geographical representation.
(Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Kevin Liffey)