The dictator is dead

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is dead – killed by one of the Lydian rebels after his hometown of Sirte fell, officially freeing the country after his 42 year dictatorship. The moment, although important, was largely symbolic, as the rebel forces have been in control since they took Tripoli – the capital – in late August. It only remained for them to oust Gaddafi’s forces from his two remaining strongholds Bani Walid and Sirte, both of which are now in rebel hands. The fight is up.

Or is it? Militarily yes, but Libya has a long way to go. Having been under a dictatorship for more than 4 decades the country has no civil infrastructure – no independent
judiciary, no political parties and no electoral system. That means that all of these things have to somehow spring into existence before an election can be held. And that won’t be easy.

The people responsible for all this are the members of the National Transitional Council (NTC), a body of assorted technocrats and politicians that represents the political wing of the rebels. The NTC’s Prime Minister, Mahmoud Jibril, has pledged elections within 8 months of the killing or capture of Gaddafi. We will see if this happens – but it is unlikely given the amount of organisation that will be needed. It is also questionable whether, having fought so hard for power, the NTC will want to give it up.

Having said all that, there is reason to be optimistic. Libya is on the right track. The NTC are making all the right noises at least, and with Gaddafi out of the picture it is hoped that his supporters will give up and go home. If elections do happen, however slowly, Libya will finally be a democracy.

Even elections pose threats, however. Libya is a deeply divided country, both along ethnic and tribal lines. How this would translate into a stable and representative government is hard to envisage. The other problem is the popularity of Islamists. An Islamist or Islamic party is likely to play an important part in the new government. That would potentially endanger the hard-won freedoms of Libyans, especially women, and sour relationships with the West. And yet there is hope. People have died for freedom, their relatives are unlikely to give it up now.

This is a brief article, written from the poolside of a hotel and for my school’s newspaper. Proper blogging will resume shortly, Luc

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