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LIBYA/ Will the tribes save the country from the Islamists?

The coalition of moderates, led by Mahmoud Jibril, won the elections in Libya. MICHELA MERCURI comments on this surprising victory, its causes and consequences.

Voting in Libya  (Infophoto) Voting in Libya (Infophoto)

Up until just a few weeks ago, few would have bet on Libya, that sandbox that was destined, according to most, for a future that had little of the rosy about it. Assumptions about how the country would become more and more like Somalia mingled with the more “optimistic” forecasts of regional divisions. The recent elections, however, have rekindled the interest and hopes of the international community in the country and in the “slow lane of the Arab spring”, countries for which the prospect of a democratic future seems most remote. Who would have bet even a penny on a country that has never had a government, a constitution or even a glimmer of political pluralism, a country where the real unifying element, the tribe, is by its very nature synonymous with division?

Still, the elections took place and, though with a few undeniable difficulties, the inhabitants of Tripoli, Sirte, Misurata, Benghazi and of other towns separated by miles and miles of desert stood in long, enthusiastic lines of people who, for the first time, prepared to take part in a right which, unlike the citizens of other countries of the Arab Spring, they had never been able to exercise, not even in a wholly symbolic way amidst thousands of instances of election fraud.

Beyond Libya’s unexpected path toward elections, however, the thing that seems to have impressed outsiders the most is the result that emerged from these elections, namely, the defeat of the Islamist forces, particularly the Justice and Construction Party of the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Wattan, led by the Salafi Abdel Hakim Belhaj, and the victory of the National Forces  Alliance of the former leader of the National Transitional Council Mahmoud Jibril, who, with meticulous work that speaks volumes about his ability to juggle the complex Libyan puzzle, cleverly managed to unite more than 50 parties and several organizations of civil society.

Can this result really be considered so unexpected and, above all, will it truly mark a new democratic beginning for Libya? First, we must remember, once again, that the Arab Spring is not the same for everyone and Libya is a sort of exception among the Arab riots. Its own historical, social and political peculiarities have meant that its path was different from that of the other revolutions in many ways.