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

Video Snowstorm Sweeps Northeastern US

'This is nothing like we feared it would be,' New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says; he had warned storm could be one of worst in city history More

Millions of Displaced Nigerians Struggle With Daily Existence

Government acknowledges over a million people displaced in 2014 due to fight against Boko Haram insurgency More

Facebook: Internal Error to Blame for Outages

Temporary outage appeared to spill over and temporarily slow or block traffic to other major Internet sites 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid