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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More