As Libyan’s went to the polls “to vote for members of a new National Assembly. Despite no modern history of nationwide voting (the country last voted in 1965 in a party-less election) and decades of dictatorship under Muammar al-Qaddafi, Libya’s election went remarkably smoothly. Voter turnout was high at around 65 percent. Carter Center observers, among others, praised the voting process, and President Obama issued a statement congratulating Libyans on the election”.
Early expectations seem to suggest that interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril’s National Forces Alliance is leading. She goes on to argue that “Jibril’s party is an alliance of numerous groups and is often characterized as being relatively liberal, secular, and pro-business. If the National Forces Alliance wins a majority, it would mark a departure from the experience of neighboring Tunisia and Egypt where Islamists have dominated recent elections. Jibril’s coalition was pitted against Islamist groups, including the party affiliated with Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, and many thought that Libya’s elections would also deliver a victory to the Islamists”.
Fundamentally she mentions that “identity issues largely define Libyan politics–and in an election involving a dizzying array of parties and well over 3,000 candidates, Jibril is a well-known leader with solid revolutionary credentials. Tribal affiliations are important in Libya, and Jibril belongs to Libya’s most populous tribe. Some speculate that women in particular supported his coalition. Jibril, a U.S.-educated Qaddafi-era official who taught at the University of Pittsburgh, has also downplayed his own and his coalition’s perceived secularism and liberalism, so Libyans’ support for Jibril does not necessarily signal their rejection of political Islam”.
While not an immediate danger, a nascent threat is that this personal politics could slip back into a cult of personality. Naturally, this is unlikely to happen for many years but what is needed in Libya, like many others nations, is ideology based politics with agonism at the centre.
She goes on to conclude that “Although the National Assembly was originally tasked with appointing a group to write the country’s constitution, citizens will now vote directly for this committee. This change comes after protests in the eastern region of the country over the allocation of seats in the National Assembly”. This bespeaks a larger issue where the east, around Benghazi, feels less Libyan that the west. A fair allocation of resources, with some local government, and a healthy does of nationalism will over time, erode fear that the east will split, taking much of the oil reserves with it.
What she did not mention however was the increasingly, dangerous security situation. There are groups, many in the east, who are still highly armed. These groups need to be disarmed and from there the government can work to build civil society and the common good where neither had existed before. Disarming these groups will be nothing but difficult however.