Libya Takes Baby Steps Toward Democracy
Washington Post editorial focusing on the real strides Libya is making.
THE CLAIM that the NATO-backed overthrow of Moammar Gaddafi has produced little but chaos in Libya got a boost on Monday when gunmen briefly took over Tripoli’s international airport, fired a few shots and grounded the international airliners that only recently had begun to arrive. Less well-reported was the follow-up: The dust-up ended in a few hours without fatalities, and the airport was back in business Tuesday. Such is Libya: a country awash in militias and weapons and almost entirely lacking in institutions that nevertheless appears to be taking a couple of steps toward a new democratic order for every step back.
The greatest danger is that the much-promised elections will not take place soon enough. The interim government promised them by June 19; senior officials are now saying they won’t complete the process of vetting candidates and printing ballots by then. Mustafa Abushagur, a deputy prime minister visiting Washington this week, said the vote would be delayed by at least a few days but added that it would be held before the beginning of the Ramadan holiday in late July.
The sooner Libya can stage elections, the sooner it will have authorities with sufficient legitimacy to complete the work of extending the government’s rule, dismantling militias and providing sufficient security to attract foreign investment. Until then, incidents like Monday’s airport takeover can be expected.