News / Middle East

Libya at Crossroads as Coalition Bargaining Continues

Mohammed Magarief (C), president of the Libyan National Assembly, attends Eid al-Fitr prayers in Benghazi August 19, 2012.
Mohammed Magarief (C), president of the Libyan National Assembly, attends Eid al-Fitr prayers in Benghazi August 19, 2012.
In the dimly lit gardens and sumptuous restaurants of the city’s Rixos Hotel, Libya’s newly minted politicians are bargaining furiously over who will be the country’s first elected prime minister since the fall of Moammar Gadhafi. 

The widely spaced benches and dining tables allow conversations to stay private – necessary when tribal affiliations, religion, personal ties and business interests are involved in the haggling.  

The point of the bargaining is to put together a coalition of legislators who can command a majority in the new 200-member parliament and form a government. The deal-making centers on 40 or so independent members of parliament who have held back so far from supporting any of the three main candidates.

The five star Rixos hotel is no stranger to important events. Deposed dictator Muammar Gadhafi liked to stage press conferences at the hotel in central Tripoli. And it was at the Rixos that Gadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, dramatically appeared in late August of 2011 inform foreign journalists that the rebellion against his father would fail. He turned out to be wrong.
 
Libya’s dangerous moment

Now, the hotel is the scene of more Libyan history in the making. 

Whatever governing coalition the legislators approve, it will be taking over at a dangerous moment in Libya’s struggle to shed what’s left of the Gadhafi dictatorship.

Not only will the new government need to establish a credible democracy in a nation that has never known it, it will have to reign in powerful militias that are a political force in their own right.  There are an estimated 200,000 or more militia members in the country now – more than fought on the rebel side to oust Gadhafi last October.

“They talk, but the threat of violence is there,” a U.N. diplomat, who declined to be named, said of the coalition bargaining. “Who’s in charge, and who will be in charge after all of this remains unclear.”
 
Showdown in Parliament this week

Formal voting in parliament to form a government starts this week. If there is no clear winner in the first round, there will be a second.

Libyan politician Mahmoud Jibril talks to journalists in Tripoli Aug. 8, 2012.Libyan politician Mahmoud Jibril talks to journalists in Tripoli Aug. 8, 2012.
x
Libyan politician Mahmoud Jibril talks to journalists in Tripoli Aug. 8, 2012.
Libyan politician Mahmoud Jibril talks to journalists in Tripoli Aug. 8, 2012.
Mahmoud Jibril’s centrist National Forces Alliance is considered to be in the strongest bargaining position. Jibril aides say the party and its allies can now count on at least 85 of the 101 votes needed to form a government.

Two other candidates are still in contention - the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party's Ibrahim Awad Barasi, Libya’s current energy minister, and the National Front-backed Mustafa Abushagur, the current deputy prime minister.

Abdul Rahman El Mansouri, a National Front adviser, predicts there will be no winner in the first round of voting for prime minister despite Jibril’s apparently strong numbers.
“In the end Abushagur will win because he will be the compromise candidate,” says Mansouri. He dismisses Barasi as a serious threat because as energy minister he has become known as “Minister for the Dark” due to the daily power outages in Tripoli and other large Libyan cities.
 
Coalition bargaining intense
The pace of coalition bargaining has become intense as the parliamentary showdown approaches. In the evenings, the Rixos hotel is full of parliamentarians and aides negotiating and discussing in groups that break up and reform with new participants. In recent days, Jibril held a series of private meetings with undecided independents after they had been softened up in earlier discussions with his aides. 

Jibril has been trying to make up for lost time after being initially reluctant to go for the premiership. He had been expected to stay in the background for now and run for the presidency next year after the drafting of a constitution.

“Over the summer he changed his mind,” said Fowzi Omaar, one of Jibril’s top advisers. “He decided there might not be a democracy to be the president of, if in the next few months things continue in the vein of the last few weeks.”
 
New surge in violence

A factor in Jibril’s decision to run has been a surge of a new kind of violence since the July elections.

Before the balloting, there were flare-ups between tribal and ethnic groups and clashes between rival militias mainly in the south and the western mountains.

Since July, the violence has taken a different turn with car bombs in Tripoli that authorities blame on Gaddafi loyalists and more score-settling assassinations of former Gaddafi-linked military and intelligence personnel.

Most disturbing of all has been a wave of ultra-conservative Islamist violence involving the bombing and destruction of mosques and shrines revered by followers of the mystical Sufi Muslim tradition.

In one of those attacks last month, extremists destroyed a well-known mosque containing Sufi graves in the center of Tripoli in broad daylight. The extremists said the graves and shrines were un-Islamic and accused Sufi Muslims of practicing “black magic.”  

Taming these various sources of violence is a major part of what the coalition bargaining in the Rixos Hotel is all about.

Moammar Gadhafi managed to keep these restive factions in check using the brute force of his military. Libya’s next leader will try to keep the peace, initially at least, through democratic compromise.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ahmed from: Tripoli
September 09, 2012 7:41 PM
regarding "murder attacks against Gaddafi supporters in Benghazi"
they were not, they were just members of notorious internal security who was sent by Gaddafi to be trained by SECURTAT, STAZI, and other criminal agencies just for oppressing common Libyans !


by: Wim Roffel
September 06, 2012 2:34 PM
Somehow this article fails to mention the murder attacks against Gaddafi supporters in Benghazi.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid