Abdurrahim El-Keib, pitched from academic obscurity to head Libya’s new government, set about selecting his cabinet on Tuesday, hoping to rally the disparate groups which toppled Muammar Gaddafi behind a democratic peace.
After decades as a dissident in exile, working as a professor of electrical engineering, Keib’s family background in Tripoli and his long spells living in both the United States and the Gulf were still being pored over by analysts for clues to his surprise election by the interim ruling council.
Some saw his links to the capital offering a balance to the hold on the National Transitional Council (NTC) by eastern Libyans from Benghazi, the seat of the uprising. Historic regional rivalries are part of a matrix of divisions among the six million Libyans which have been inflamed by months of war.
His lack of past service under Gaddafi, in contrast to NTC chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil and others, and his presence in Libya during most of this year’s fighting, in contrast to the outgoing wartime prime minister Mahmoud Jibril, may also boost his legitimacy as the government tries to organise elections.
Keib was elected with 26 votes from the 51-member NTC on Monday in Tripoli, taking over from Jibril, who had promised to resign once the killing of Gaddafi and fall of final bastions of support allowed last week’s declaration of “liberation.”