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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs