It has been 9 months now since Colonel Gaddafi was killed as he attempted to escape the wrath of the people he had oppressed for generations. Since then that wrath has slowly transformed to a yearning for the rule of law, democracy and a stable country in which they can carry on their lives. On Saturday the Libyan people finally engaged in that process.
This is the first step in the chain of processes that shall see this battered and torn country transformed into a working state, capable of governing and operating itself with fully-fledged institutions. The body elected from this poll is an interim one. It will act as a caretaker, appointing a cabinet and overseeing the drafting of a constitution, which will within 12 months, be the subject of a referendum. And yet, despite it being only the beginning step, this is the first time for the vast majority of those taking part, that they have taken part in a national democratic event.
There have, inevitably, been a few problems with this election. Firstly, there have been complaints that no matter how fair the elections may be and the manner in which they are conducted, the formation of the body itself is not fair. The set up of the 200 seat body that this election will put together, in the minds of some, echoes the rife favouritism of Tripoli and the western region of the country that was rampant in the days of Gaddafi. Eastern Libya, with Benghazi the home of the revolution has only been allocated 60 seats in the body, while the west has been granted 100*. The federalists in the eastern region of Cyrenaica have kicked this issue up. However the dust they are trying to raise on the issue doesn’t seem to want to rise. Throughout the elections only 2% of polling places were shut. Turnout was high, with conservative estimates placing the figure at 62%. The attacks they made on electoral commission offices, burning ballot papers and stealing ballot boxes had a negligible impact. Secondly, the fighting which has marred the country since the old regime’s fall as continued almost unabated, predominately in the Southern desert region, throughout the election period.
However, despite these small issues, there is a great hope for Libya:
The fears of the West that the Arab Spring was to descend into an Islamist nightmare appear unfounded. Throughout the country the moderate political party headed by Mahmoud Jibril has been surging ahead of others. With poll ratings reaching 70% in some areas the thought that the Islamists would create a new Islamic state seem foolish. This is particularly potent when considering that in some parts of the country, even in places considered to be their strongholds, their level of support has often been in single digits.
These elections will lend some legitimacy to the authorities in the country, which are already making headway into stabilising and rebuilding the nation, and preparing it for investment and economic diversification. They have already begun building a national army, which has had some small successes. This legitimacy will also be able to extend to the army, and likely increase its effectiveness in dealing with combative elements through the country.
On the whole, the entire nation has been acting in a responsible and mature manner in relation to their future. While there are always going to be parties driven by self-interest the overwhelming force in Libya is currently for the good of the country. Incidents where players have taken the steps necessary to boost the success of the country are rife. All in all, it is time to stop listening to the detractors and the naysayers. Libya is doing well, and if it continues on this path, they will shortly be a beacon for other Arab Spring nations to aspire to.
*With the remaining 40 seats being given to the sparsely populated Southern desert region.
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