News / Africa

Libya - Challenges on Road Toward Democracy

A Libyan woman holding the rebellion's flag tours with her daughters one of Moammar Gadhafi's ransacked compounds in Tripoli, August 31, 2011
A Libyan woman holding the rebellion's flag tours with her daughters one of Moammar Gadhafi's ransacked compounds in Tripoli, August 31, 2011

Multimedia

Audio
Susan Yackee

It seems official: the Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) will lead Libya into democracy. What is not yet known is exactly how it will accomplish the task. The whole world is watching, and whatever action the NTC takes in the first 100 days will be critical to the success of a post-Gadhafi Libya, experts believe.

How does a nation go about rebuilding after so many years of dictatorship?  And is the NTC up to the job? Hallam Ferguson, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Division of the International Republican Institute (IRI), says that while there is evidence that “some thinking has gone into it,” he has not yet seen any “full roadmap”  that outlines what exactly the provisional authority plans to do.

The first steps

If the NTC is to be successful in leading Libya into full democracy, it must focus its efforts in five critical arenas, says Ferguson. First and foremost, the NTC must establish and maintain security - keeping in mind that they are still mired in conflict. “They need to finish that civil war,” he says.

And beyond that, he adds, there are quite a few other security-related concerns: “Who’s going to police the streets?  Who’s going to maintain law and order in Benghazi, in Tripoli, in Sirte?  How are you going to manage the various militias that have been a part of this war - on both sides?”  

Yet another challenge, says Ferguson, are the guns and rockets that were handed out to rebel forces. How, exactly, will provisional authorities get them back?

The NTC faces an equally daunting task of creating a truly representational form of government. “It will be very interesting to see how they adapt over the next weeks to include new members from newly liberated areas,” says Ferguson.

Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, at a news conference in Benghazi, Libya, August 30, 2011
Mustafa Abdel Jalil, chairman of the Libyan National Transitional Council, at a news conference in Benghazi, Libya, August 30, 2011

As a initial step, the provisional government has agreed upon a draft constitutional charter, which delineates a path to free and fair elections - the third challenge on the road to democracy, according to Ferguson. “So they have something of a roadmap here,” says he, “but they have yet to operationalize it.”  Ferguson says, for example, if the NTC gets set to hold elections, it will need to create specific offices to handle voter registration, organize voting stations and educate the public in the basics of the electoral process.

“All that’s going to take time,” Ferguson says, “and the draft constitutional charter that they’ve released lays out a very aggressive timetable for getting elections up and running - well under a year.” He cites the example of experiences in the fledgling democracies of Tunisia and Egypt, which have faced enormous challenges in trying to conduct elections sooner rather than later.

Hallam Ferguson, International Republican Institute, speaks with Susan Yackee about democracy prospects in Libya:

War has shattered the Libyan economy and devastated its infrastructure. Ferguson says the NTC will have to rely heavily on profits from the country’s oil and gas, which historically have been strong money producers for the nation. However, the energy sector is in pieces, and reviving it will be a tremendous challenge. “It’s broken, Ferguson says.  “It’s not even clear where the migrant workers have gone who have been responsible for running that industry.” Roads will have to be fixed, basic utilities will have to be restored, structures rebuilt and jobs created, he adds.

But perhaps the greatest challenge for the provisional government will be reconciling with Gadhafi loyalists. “The interim administration has got to decide how they’re going to deal with former regime figures, be they officials or police and soldiers who fought for Gadhafi.” Also, Furguson believes the NTC will have to ask itself to what degree will it hold loyalists responsible for their “alleged misdeeds” and whether it will be willing to forgive former Gadhafi supporters and move on.

Ferguson stresses the importance of transparency to the NTC.  For him, they must be willing and able to communicate their plans so that everyone - from the Libyan people to the international community - knows what to expect in a post-Gadhafi Libya.

Importance of a national dialogue

There are other issues facing the former rebels, says Michael Svetlik, the Vice President of Programs at the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES). He agrees that the NTC should focus initially on security and the economy, but he also believes it’s important to initiate a national dialogue. “There needs to be a means by which various parts of society that have not been allowed a voice in governing the country to participate in what would be a constitution-making process.”

Libyans during anti-Gadhafi protests (file photo)
Libyans during anti-Gadhafi protests (file photo)

Svetlik suggests that the NTC create a constitutional council that would encompass wide segments of the population, including minorities and women. He also stresses that the body empowered to write a constitution should be “one that citizens view as legitimate and representing their needs… There should be a clear decision on how such a body is provided with power, whether through elections (as in Tunisia) or through a mandate provided by the General Assembly.”

Svetlik says it is critical that the people understand their rights under the law. He says fundamental issues enshrined in constitutions generally include the importance of political participation, the role and responsibility of an independent judiciary and the fundamental rights of freedom of assembly and speech, a free press and religion.

Michael Svetlik, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, believes a new constitution would be a crucial cornerstone for Libya's democracy:

Svetlik notes that for 40 years under the Gadhafi regime, political forums, an open media environment and other foundations of a free society did not exist. By comparison, says he, even before the Arab Spring, Egypt and Tunisia, already had institutions in place that today just require restructuring to become part of a representative government. Libyans, he says, they’re dealing with a “long term process” and the outside world will have to do its part. “The international community can help establish a secure environment in which this political dialogue can begin to take place."

However, he is guarded about prospects for true democracy in Libya. “I think what we’re looking at here is a transition in progress,” said Svetlik. “It’s very early to be able to predict what government, what democracy will look like in Libya. The basic building blocks of a free media, a robust and independent judiciary, of the government bodies that are necessary to carry out and maintain a democratic process are simply not in place.”

Encouraging signs

Other analysts are more optimistic. Barrie Freeman, Director for North Africa at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), is among those who believe democracy will in the end come to Libya. “A lot of work and preparation have already been done by the NTC in Benghazi,” Freeman says, “but also by the formation of neighborhood councils in Benghazi, even in Tripoli when Gadhafi was fully in control.  I think Libyans have been mobilizing for this for many months.”

Barrie Freeman, National Democratic Institute, is optimistic about prospects for democracy in Libya:

Freeman says NTC members are also looking at the “transition experiences” of other nations, drawing on lessons learned by not only in Iraq, but countries in Eastern Europe and Latin America. Freeman believes the NTC is determined to be transparent, to reach out to citizens and to keep the flow of information going.

Freeman says she has faith in the Libyan people to make the right choice. “They see this as their big opportunity. They really want to get it right.” 

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid