Spotlight on Geopolitics

The UN-sanctioned military operations are obscuring the ongoing debate concerning the political organisation of post-Gaddafi Libya. To date, the only source of gauging what the country could look like in the future is a document titled “A Vision of Democratic Libya” issued by the Interim National Council on the 29th of March 2011.

The Council’s document rejects outright the idea of partitioning the country, as advanced by some western foreign policy-making circles. On this point, it states that Libya’s citizens have “aspirations for a modern, free and united state”. It also stipulates in no uncertain terms that

There is no alternative to building a free and democratic society and ensuring the supremacy of International humanitarian law and the Human Rights Declaration […] It is this social contract that must lead us to a civil society that recognizes the intellectual and political pluralism and allows for the peaceful transfer of power through legal institutions and ballot boxes; in accordance with the national constitution crafted by the people and endorsed in a referendum”

The Interim National Council intends to draft a modern constitution, to uphold pluralism and the peaceful transition of power, to allow for the formation of political parties, unions and NGOs, and to guarantee free expression in the media, as well as the right of people to protest. The next Libyan state would be based on the Islamic principles of truth, justice and equality.

In regard to the nation’s oil wealth, this has “to be used for the benefit of Libyan people, by creating effective economic institutions in order to eradicate poverty and unemployment and working towards a healthy society, a green environment and a prosperous economy”.

According to the blueprint, the future Libyan state will invest heavily in education, research and development, and will allocate sufficient funds for social care, for integration and solidarity. Women are to be “empowered” and equal citizenship rights are to be extended to all, regardless of colour, gender, ethnicity or social status.

In a break with the past, the country’s foreign policy would promote enhanced regional cooperation and would be based on the principle of respect for the independence and sovereignty of all nations.

It is unclear from the document whether the Interim Council is in favour of reverting to some form of federalism, which was the glue used to bind together the two former Ottoman provinces of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. As Frederic Wehrey – from the Council on Foreign Relations – points out, as matters now stand “Libya lacks both legitimate formal institutions and a functioning civil society”, which results in a rather chaotic political scene. If the next state institutions fail to take into consideration the tribal factor, there is a danger, according to the same expert, of tribal warlordism. A bicameral parliament, in which some of the tribes’ political representatives could be appointed by right to the upper chamber, would go a long way towards forestalling such a development.

Although Richard N. Haas, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, has lobbied before the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee for a long-term western military presence on Libyan soil, such an option does not seem to be acceptable to the National Interim Council’s members.

The international community has a vested interest in the successful re-organisation of Libya, although the task is a daunting one. To be viable and respected by its neighbours, the next Libyan state would have to do away with the terrible legacy of Gaddafi’s Jamahiriya and become a model of prosperity and democracy in Maghreb and the wider Mediterranean region. (sources: National Interim Council document; Council on Foreign Relations, February and April 2011)

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