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Libya Elects Engineer To Acting Prime Minister Post 188

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the libya-to-become-tech-center-of-africa dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes in with this quote from CNN: "Libya's transitional government picked an engineering professor and longtime exile as its acting prime minister Monday, with the new leader pledging to respect human rights and international law. The National Transitional Council elected Abdurrahim El-Keib, an electrical engineer who has held teaching posts at the University of Alabama and Abu Dhabi's Petroleum Institute, to the post with the support of 26 of the 51 members who voted. ... El-Keib emerged victorious from a field that initially included 10 candidates. ... He is currently listed as 'former faculty' on the website of The Petroleum Institute, which said he served as chairman of its electrical engineering department and lists him as an expert in power system economics, planning and controls." PRK adds: "Has there ever been an engineer in the top spot? ... Is this a good idea? Or are techies doomed in politics?"
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Libya Elects Engineer To Acting Prime Minister Post

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  • Does Jimmy Carter count?
  • Jimmy Carter was a nuclear engineer. I always thought it was funny in a depressing sort of a way that he chose to portray himself as a peanut farmer instead.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      No he was not. http://atomicinsights.com/2006/01/picking-on-the-jimmy-carter-myth.html

      • by Baloroth (2370816) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:44AM (#37921964)
        That letter is somewhat deceptive, to say the very least. From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

        On December 12, 1952, an accident with the experimental NRX reactor at Atomic Energy of Canada’s Chalk River Laboratories caused a partial meltdown. The resulting explosion caused millions of liters of radioactive water to flood the reactor building’s basement, and the reactor’s core was no longer usable.[16] Carter was now ordered to Chalk River, joining other Canadian and American service personnel. He was the officer in charge of the U.S. team assisting in the shutdown of the Chalk River Nuclear Reactor.[17]

        So yeah, I would say overseeing a nuclear reactor shutdown/cleanup (including being lowered in personally to work on the reactor) qualifies him for, if not "nuclear engineer", at least "knows a lot about nuclear power." Which is just about "nuclear engineer", considering what most politicians/presidents know about the issue.

        • by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:56AM (#37922150)

          James Carter was a US Navy officer in the nuclear power field.

          No, that doesn't make him a nuclear engineer.

          It makes him pretty knowledgeable about Naval Nuclear Power Plants, but most any Senior Chief in Naval Nuclear Power would have been at least as knowledgeable.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    the record for humanities is horrific:

      Hitler was a painter.
      Mao was a librarian.
      Stalin was a preacher.

    Yours In Moscow,
    K. Trout, C.I.O.

  • ..is because those not normally in politics are surrounded by people who wish to maintain the "status quo" and are fearful of change. Regardless of how amazing an idea is, regardless of how well it would work, those that are in power are afraid to lose it and stymie what could be real progress from an out-of-the-box thinker.

    Just my .02 microns worth.

  • by superwiz (655733) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:29AM (#37921716) Journal
    was an electrical engineer (PhD).
    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>was an electrical engineer (PhD).

      The last time I checked, the majority of the senior rulers of China were engineers.

      So to answer the question of the summary, yes. Engineers have run a country before.

      This really does explain the development of China over the last 10 or 20 years.

      • This really does explain the development of China over the last 10 or 20 years.

        Concentration on sexy, l33t high tech projects while ignoring the growing rumbles of the people... Check.

        Seriously, China's main problem (now and for the next couple of decades) is the now threatened prosperity of their growing middle class. (Threatened both with the faltering economies of the West, and as the West looks to alternate sources of labor as the cost of doing business in China increases.) Look to Russia for

        • by ShakaUVM (157947)

          Yeah. The last time I was in China, the government came through with a bulldozer and knocked down all the illegal street vendors on the road, then stopped an arrow straight superhighway through it. This was in the middle of the BFE mind you, but they gave no notice to the guys running the stands.

          Was the closest thing I'd ever seen to SimCity in real life.

  • You will note that it was 26 out of 51. I would say that he will have a difficult time passing anything. Hopefully, others will work with him, rather than opposed to him.
    • by TWX (665546)

      26 of 51 with 10 candidates is actually quite impressive.

      That does not predict what will happen to simple pass/fail votes, but on the other hand, if he can continue to keep that barely-majority intact for a lot of pass/fail votes that don't require supermajorities, he'll do fine.

      Of course, he's an engineer, so he probably lacks in the social skills department, and that might be much worse for trying to maintain that minimal majority.

      • by dskzero (960168)

        Of course, he's an engineer, so he probably lacks in the social skills department, and that might be much worse for trying to maintain that minimal majority.

        Engineers =/= Nerds. Sure they might share some traits, but if you're an engineer and lack social skills, you won't get very far.

      • by superwiz (655733)

        Of course, he's an engineer, so he probably lacks in the social skills department, and that might be much worse for trying to maintain that minimal majority.

        As a university faculty, he most likely does have social skills. And as someone how ran a department in a university he most certainly has political skills.

    • by v1 (525388)

      When I read this I was wondering how many were on the ballot. if there were 10 on the ballot, this guy could easily have gotten triple the number of votes of his next contender.

      That's why runoff elections are good in cases like that, take say the top two or three from the first vote and then shake that out with one more vote.

      • Most run off style voting systems don't require a second poll if one candidate gets a majority of the vote in the initial run. If one person gets 51% of the vote and the other nine split the rest, the person with plurality (and majority) gets the seat. If one person gets 49% of the vote and the other nine split the rest, the person with plurality (but not majority) runs off against his/her top one or two challengers. It's possible they do it differently somewhere, but I've always seen it handled this way

        • by v1 (525388)

          Most run off style voting systems don't require a second poll if one candidate gets a majority of the vote in the initial run.

          Agreed, the basic idea here is to be able to say that the elected official "has the support of over half the voting population". If you got 40% of the vote and the other 5 candidates got 5,5,10,10,30%, you do a runoff and that forces the ones that voted in the 5 and 10% camps to pick a side that has stronger support of the people.

          It's still possible of course for that 30% candidate

          • by jonbryce (703250)

            France is probably where you are most likely to see the winner of the first round lose the second round. It is conceivable that the National Front candidate could come first with around 20% of the the vote, and the other 80% of the vote is split between a very long list of other candidates. People either support and vote National Front, or absolutely hate them and will vote for any other candidate to keep them out, so in the second round, the other 80% will vote for the second place candidate no matter wh

    • by Pharmboy (216950)

      The vote was 26 of 51, in a field of 10 candidates. I would say that is pretty good. That doesn't mean that the other 25 who voted for someone else are against him, it means that 49% preferred someone else.

      For example: Only 10% of Republicans would pick Ron Paul as their candidate against other Republicans, but over 90% would pick him over Obama. Vote tallies can be very misleading when you have 4 or 5 choices, no less 10.

    • I'm kind of split, on the one hand, I think this guy will be good for physical reconstruction of oil infrastructure, water, power, sewer, roads, etc.

      However, having him as the very first PM might not work so well, because in addition to the physical aspect of reconstruction, an equally pressing issue in terms of having a clock which will run out quickly, is establishing a viable political system in the country - constitution, parliament, elections, etc.

      I wish him the best of luck with that.

    • A better question would be, does TNC actually control the country? I.e., say, all those militias that worked together against Gaddafi - do they all recognize this government as theirs? Or is it going to be like in Afghanistan, where president is elected, but warlords who rule the country in practice are not - and who, at best, "respect" the president (and even then conditionally). Or, worse yet, like Somali, where the official government ended up controlling only parts of the capital at some point?

  • by Hentes (2461350) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:33AM (#37921786)

    There are several engineers some of them are good leaders and some of them are not.

    • Indeed. Though I know Slashdot is (in general) fond of technocrats, there's no evidence they are any better or any worse as politicians than anyone else.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Ahmadinejad (Iran) is a civil engineer and has a PhD.... Doesn't keep him from spouting nonsense.

    • by mrops (927562)

      G. W. Bush (Jr) is not an engineer, and nothing keeps him from spouting nonsense either.

  • IIRC, the last two US Presidents that started from an engineering background were Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. Depending who you ask, they were either awful leaders or they were screwed by fate.

    Both were defeated after one term by orators, who became legendary leaders in the US mythology.

    • by dintech (998802)

      Depending who you ask, they were either awful leaders or they were screwed by fate.

      You could say the same about Bush and Obama. Clinton is excluded because he was also screwed by his PA.

    • Re:US Presidents (Score:4, Interesting)

      by cashman73 (855518) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @01:00PM (#37923140) Journal
      Would Thomas Jefferson count? Not exactly an engineer, and more of an architect, he is credited with designing quite a few buildings in Colonial Virginia that still stand today, including the Virginia State Capitol, the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, and his own home, Monticello. Though I think by trade, he was more of a lawyer and a statesman,. . .
    • by k6mfw (1182893)

      First US president, George Washington, was a military engineer which is why Engineers Week is held same week as Washington's birthday (though now President's Day). Though engineering held a different stature as it does now.

      Speaking of engineering, I talked with someone from Romania and he said during before collapse of communism in east Europe, engineering was preferred major for college students. His father had a technical kind of job, like everyone who was employed by the goverment. After fall of "Iron

    • by kbahey (102895)

      Essam Sharaf, the interim Prime Minister, has been a big disappointment.

      Initially, a lot of hope was on him to make things better.

      But as time passed, it turns out that he is too soft, and the military rulers do not allow him to have the authority to do things that are pro-revolution.

      Speculation is that a second wave of the revolution will happen, aimed at the military junta (SCAF = Supreme Council of the Armed Forces).

  • They're all engineers.

    It's not that uncommon at all. Also, the majority of the members of the executive committee of the communist party of China (the center of power in China) are eng. too.

    Engineering tends to attracts the best and the brightest in dictatorship as it's seen as safer profession where there is less risk of angering the regime. And well, law of example is less important when you have mostly political trials..

  • was a mining engineer. His administration took a lot of the blame for the Great Depression, but it was really the result of a bubble from a former administration popping, same as the Great Recession we're in now.
    • Harding's and Coolidge's policies are what lead to the great depression, but Hoover did very little once it was popping. In many ways, his policies were similar to Obama's: lead around by CONgress.
      • by joggle (594025)

        Except that Hoover was very reluctant to pump money into the economy or try in anyway to save the banks. That's a pretty huge difference. There's also a pretty big difference between the depression that resulted from Hoover's actions (or inactions) and today's recession.

    • Re:Herbert Hoover... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dkleinsc (563838) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @12:53PM (#37923050) Homepage

      It's even been suggested that in some ways becoming President of the United States was a step down in Hoover's career. He had already written the standard textbook used for mine engineering, invented a new way to extract zinc from what was thought to be waste ore (basically creating Australia's zinc industry from a pile of junk), written the standard translation an important Latin work on metallurgy, and was involved in helping the US military during the Boxer Rebellion. His entry into politics was leading massive efforts to feed people affected by WW I throughout Europe and Russia, creating the Hoover Institution, and more-or-less created the modern US Department of Commerce out of what had been a fledgling organization.

      And then he became president and screwed up royally, mostly because his economic advisers didn't how to combat recessions: Contrary to popular belief, he responded to the crash immediately, working feverishly to try to keep the US federal budget balanced via a combination of taxation and austerity measures, on the advice of his economic advisers who told him that this would restore confidence to the markets (sound familiar?).

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @11:39AM (#37921864) Journal
    Considering that one of the crisis Libya faces involves oil production and gaining control of the resources generated from it, having an engineer who knows the industry is quite possibly the smartest decision they could make. Much of the corruption of the old Libyan government involved the oil production industry and misappropriation of profits by the companies that drill there. Hopefully this dude is honest and will help put an end to the worst of the oil abuses.
  • Of the the few that attend college. Its family pressure on sons. In response, college rename many more majors as "engineering" than in the US. Almost everything vocation, business, architecture, computing is called engineering.
  • When you don't have absolute power and need to get things done, you have to build a coalition. But building such a coalition requires compromise, often moral compromise. Thus if you're not a politician when you enter government, you will become one soon enough, if not by desire then by necessity.

    Don't get me wrong, dictatorships and oligarchies are far worse, but having someone with technical ability in politics won't make any difference -- what makes a difference is some with a clear sense of values and th

  • by deblau (68023)

    I trust an engineer's ability to do politics about as much as I trust a politician's ability to do engineering.

  • In the Middle East, dictatorships made sure that no one can emerge as a competitor to the incumbent tyrant, and that has gutted two generations worth of politicians. Either they become servile to the tyrant, or they are eliminated (physically, politically, socially, or otherwise ...)

    Also, remember that this is a transitional government still. He has not been elected by a public ballot. That will take around 8 months to happen.

    Outside of the USA, there are lots of engineers, doctors, university professors,

  • NYC Mayor Bloomberg (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Demogoblin (249774) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @12:18PM (#37922480)

    NYC Mayor Bloomberg: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Bloomberg
    EE from Johns Hopkins

    John Sununu Sr.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_H._Sununu
    John Sununu Jr: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_E._Sununu
    Both MechE's from MIT

  • it seems like tons of other countries have hired post-graduate level engineers to run their countries and for the most part its turned out okay.

    here in america i cringe at the thought of an intellectual or scientist leading the nation. they would predictably be branded an out of touch elitist.
  • Herman Cain? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by timchampion (940519) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @12:27PM (#37922638) Homepage
    Herman Cain has a Masters in Computer Science from Purdue. Not in charge, but leading the Republican pack as of this writing.
  • by while(true) (626738) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @12:35PM (#37922778)
    According to this article [economist.com] from The Economist the most common background for politicians word wide is Law (surprise!) and then comes (in order) Business, Diplomacy, Military, Journalism, Economics, Medicine, Academia, and Engineering.

    Almost 20% of the politicians had a Law background while about 7% had an Engineering background.
  • Herman Cain is not president yet, but he has a master’s degree in computer science

    http://www.hermancain.com/about

  • by Dr. Spork (142693) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @12:50PM (#37922998)
    So it appears that it's quite common that engineers and scientists run foreign countries. It's only we Americans who find this noteworthy, because our country is almost always run by lawyers - and I don't just mean our presidents. Sixty of our 100 senators are former lawyers. I can't help but think that lawyers have a very different approach to leadership than do scientists and engineers, and the thought doesn't exactly fill me with confidence. I'm not saying that lawyers can't be good and wise leaders. But what I am saying is that when government becomes an institution of lawyers, they inevitably import the institutional culture of lawyerism into government. Maybe that's why their governing feels more like a shifting battle of prosecution v. defense (though the sides occasionally change) where most of the energy is devoted to matters of procedure, rhetoric, strategy and "winning" rather than just doing the right thing for the country. Lawyers are people who are used to working on behalf of paying clients, and they must defend those clients to the hilt, not caring about whether they are actually right or wrong. That's as it should be. Now, of course the lawyers who move into government will tell you that "the American people" are their new clients, but in effect, I think it's the paying interest groups who buy our governing lawyers. So government is a battle of interest groups, each armed with a paid group of politician-lawyer-advocates who are expected to not worry about who's actually right. Their job is to win, or at least to keep "the other side" from winning. My foreign friends often ask my why the US only has two viable political parties. Could it be that because in the courtroom there are only two sides, and our politicians couldn't wrap their heads around a system that works differently? I feel like when the history of the decline of our country is written, something like this will be a part of the analysis.
    • I agree. Lawyers are trained to argue an opinion regardless of its validity. People who learn to debate are rewarded on their ability to argue, not on whether or not they are right. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that we are surrounded by people in government and politics promoting ideologies and denying facts all the time.
      • by ZouPrime (460611)

        Lawyers are also trained to know, understand and work with the law. Giving that an important role of politicians is to create and modify laws, it's no wonder there's a lot of lawyers among them. The opposite would be surprising.

    • by k6mfw (1182893)

      My foreign friends often ask my why the US only has two viable political parties. Could it be that because in the courtroom there are only two sides, and our politicians couldn't wrap their heads around a system that works differently?

      damn, perhaps that is why only two parties (plaintiff and defendant), good observation. Actually very insightful analysis. (hey, rest of you mod this guy up).

    • Yup, its not like an engineer could do _worse_ then a lawyer. Bureaucracy has only one goal: to keep the status quo so that it survives. At least an engineer is more willing to look at the practicality rather the rhetoric and "cute" sound bites that don't actually address the root of the problem.

      We need to remove _all_ financial motives from [introducing] Laws.

      Every donation should be pooled, and at the end of every month, it should be split evenly to ALL the parties, to give ALL voices a chance to have t

  • As colleges and university Political Science departments decide that perhaps they can attract more students if they renamed their major to "Political Engineering". Sadly, these same people that consider PolySci to be "science" are the same idiots that would consider it to be "engineering" in an attempt to artificially boost their salary above minimum wage and hope for a job that doesn't involve asking people if they want to super-size their order of fries,. . .
    • As colleges and university Political Science departments decide that perhaps they can attract more students if they renamed their major to "Political Engineering". Sadly, these same people that consider PolySci to be "science" are the same idiots that would consider it to be "engineering" in an attempt to artificially boost their salary above minimum wage and hope for a job that doesn't involve asking people if they want to super-size their order of fries,. . .

      Not happening in Canada, fortunately.

      The title of "engineer" cannot be carelessly slapped onto any job title unless one is registered as a "Professional Engineer" (P.Eng). This requires a four-year degree program at an accredited university in an engineering program (STEM-based; science, technology, engineering, mathematics), resulting in a Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.Sc.) or a Bachelor of Engineering (B.Eng./B.E.). No artsy degrees count. This also requires four years of full-time work in industry,

      • by Nethead (1563)

        Network Engineer - anyone that has configured BGP.

  • by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @01:08PM (#37923268) Journal

    Electing an engineer to a public office means exactly jack-shit. After graduating with an engineering degree, I can say that I've known plenty of engineers who were assholes, idiots, or both.

  • El-Keib is an expert in education and 'Islamic Banking'. He's the perfect person to introduce the kind of debt terrors the west are facing now in order to control and mine Libya.

  • by acidfast7 (551610) on Wednesday November 02, 2011 @01:38PM (#37923648)
    is this a serious question? Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany) After being awarded a doctorate (Dr. rer. nat.) for her thesis on quantum chemistry,[10] she worked as a researcher and published several papers.
  • Portugal had a number of engineers in it's top spot. António Guterres [wikipedia.org], former Portuguese prime-minister and current United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees [wikipedia.org], is also an electrical engineer. Another one is José Sócrates [wikipedia.org], former Portuguese prime-minister and President of the European Council [wikipedia.org], which is supposed to be a civil engineer but allegedly his degree was attained through shady backroom clerical works from corrupt business associates.

  • was a civil engineer by training.
  • was a chemist. Not a good advert for them was she?
  • Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, current president of Iran is an engineer. Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of the UK is a scientist. I'm sure there are plenty of other examples.

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