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LIBYAN ELECTIONS/ For “liberals”, a majority may not be enough

ROBI RONZA comments on the results of the Libyan elections, the possible victory of the “liberals” and on the background situation of the country that is divided into sections and tribes.

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

In circumstances like those of Saturday's elections in Libya, the international media tends to overestimate the prospects of political forces that are more like Western ones, as well as the conditions and results of the vote in big cities. For this reason, the news coming as we write, giving the lead to Jabril, the so-called “liberal”, should be taken with a grain of salt. It is true that, unlike in Egypt, the bulk of the Libyan population lives in 3-4 cities, and this could make a difference. However, it remains to be seen whether the principle of “one person, one vote”, typical of modern Western democracy, has any sense in a country like Libya, but we will speak of that later.

On Saturday, the Libyans who went to the voting booths, about 66 percent of the nearly 2.8 million citizens eligible to vote, were asked to choose the 200 members of an assembly, called the General National Congress, which will appoint a new government within 30 days of taking office. Then there will be the election of a Constituent Assembly and, finally, next year, a new Parliament will be elected. The election of local government bodies has already taken place.

In itself it is a well-thought out plan, but as we have said, it must be verified as to whether or not it is realistic in the concrete situation of Libya, a country (like many others worldwide) where territories and human communities, ethnic, ethno-religious or ethno-social, count as much as individuals. Thus, a majority in numbers alone is not enough, but could even become the detonator of a conflict. In the case of Libya, the present borders of which are a product of Italian colonialism, there are three areas marked by deep historical boundaries: Tripoli in the west; Cyrenaica in the east; and a large portion of the Sahara desert in the south. In particular, the main problem is that the power and bulk of the population are in Tripoli, while almost all of the rich oil fields are in Cyrenaica. Then, as if that were not enough, the “secular” or “liberal”, in the limits that terms like that have in the Arab Muslim world, stronghold is in Tripoli, while Cyrenaica is the stronghold of Islamic fundamentalism, and not coincidentally the homeland of some prominent figures of Al Qaeda.