Libya’s Election: Uncertainty before and after
My latest on Al Jazeera English Opinion Libya’s Election: Uncertainty before and after. On the eve of Libya’s historic election, much is at stake but little is certain.
The interim government has often pointed to its lack of an elected mandate as a reason for making no decisions that would have a key long-term impact. Only the July 7 election can remove this excuse for political (and, by extension, economic) paralysis.
Should elections be further pushed back until after the month of Ramadan (which begins on July 20), this window of opportunity for post-war political progress, once missed, may never re-appear. First of all, the election itself, even though based on an arbitrary draft constitutional declaration written by the NTC, would maintain faith in the political process. More importantly, in the continued absence of a legitimate central decision-making authority to disarm and demobilise Libya’s remaining armed brigades, there would be a greater potential for isolated incidents of violence to spiral into a state of chaos and stagnation.
While the General National Congress election will bring new top level leadership, it will not itself change the balance of power between the central government and local militia. Regional bickering and wrangling will, no doubt, continue, but will those dramas play out with the most powerful armed groups – those of Zintan and Misrata – again using coercive means to secure important posts in the new government and potentially ruin it? Will enough of the framers of Libya’s new constitution favour federalism to derail the forging of national unity? Will they choose a presidential or parliamentary system? Neither the most informed outside pundits nor the Libyans themselves can state with any degree of confidence what the future may hold. Libya, like the other Arab Spring countries, remains a work in progress whose fortunes cannot be foretold, and will likely be fundamentally affected by honest mistakes, fortunate and unfortunate circumstances and coincidences – and disappointing false starts.