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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs