Despite the force of the recent successful protests in Egypt and Tunisia, it is incredibly hard to predict what is going to happen in Libya. A few days ago it seemed as if the days of Gaddafi were numbered, but now it seems equally plausible that he will remain in power. The confusion is compounded by the limited supply of verified information coming from the country. The world’s media is scrabbling for news.
So what do we know? We know that rather than a protest movement intent on change, the Libyan opposition has bought the country to the brink of civil war. Gaddafi has rallied his loyal troops and the two sides are now embroiled in an Afghanistan-style fight for territory. The rebels have control of the second city of Benghazi but Gaddafi has a firm hold on Tripoli. Towns and cities across the country are being fought over but it is impossible to tell who is in control where.
A map from the BBC News website:
Innocent people are being caught up in the violence, with three unarmed civilians killed in Misrata by government forces who had made it to the centre. The UK government condemned the violence and removed its support of Gaddafi, which resulted in some embarrassment on the part of the Foreign Office.
The problems in Libya are very different to those we have already seen. There is one main sticking point – and that is Gaddafi himself. When he came to power forty-one years ago, he did not assign himself a titled position. Therefore, even if he did want to resign (he doesn’t, but still) he has nothing to resign from. Officially at least, he has never been Libya’s leader.