Libyans flex democratic muscle

Protesters in Benghazi have for days now been blocking the entrance to the offices of Libya's biggest oil company, Agoco, to demand jobs for youth and greater transparency over public funds. (Tripoli Post, April 25) Meanwhile the National Transitional Council (NTC) has passed a measure that bans parties based on religious or ethnic identity. The law comes two months ahead of the country's first general elections to choose a 200-member assembly to draw up a new constitution and form a democratic government. The new law is of course opposed by the new Freedom and Development Party, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. (Catholic Online, Tripoli Post, April 26)

The law was actually first proposed by former Berber rebels from the country's west, who issued a statement in October calling for a unified, secular, multi-cultural Libya. This appears to be the beginning of the post-revolutionary reckoning that we have predicted—a three-way struggle between Western-backed proxy forces, Islamist fundamentalists, and militantly independent Berbers and other Libyans concerned with defending their hard-won freedom. The passage of a law barring Islamist or Arab nationalist (or Berber nationalist) parties from public office is a sign that the last category—the one we are avidly rooting for—is prevailing. For the moment.

See our last posts on Libya and the Arab revolutions.

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  1. Libya: “ex”-rebels attack prime minister’s office
    What are described as “former rebels” attacked the office of Libya’s interim prime minister in Tripoli on May 8, in an apparent protest over outstanding payments promised by the government to ex-fighters The rebels circled the building in heavily armed pickup trucks, opened fire in the air and at the building, prompting a clash with the Tripoli Revolutionary Brigade, which seems to have more “official” status. Reports said one brigade member was killed. CNN tells us the fighters “were from two towns in Libya’s Western Mountains,” but does not say if they were Arab or Berber.

    Apparently desperate Black African migrants are continuing to flee Libya. In another very sketchy account, Voice of America tells us May 8 that several Somalis drowned while attempting to reach Malta in a rickety boat. “UNHCR’s regional office in Italy reports these latest deaths raise to 81 the number of reported or confirmed dead among people trying to reach Europe from Libya this year.”

  2. More confused reportage on fighting in Libya
    The Libyan government has declared a “military zone” and deployed troops in the west of the country, after days of clashes between rival militias, BBC News reports June 16. The number of fatalities is officially 14 but other sources told the BBC that dozens have been killed in recent days. At least 89 have been wounded. The latest clash was triggered by the death of a man from Zintan after he was stopped at a checkpoint, which Zintan militias have blamed on the Mashashya tribe. Residents from the Mashashya group have claimed that they are being shelled by Zintan forces.

    As usual, we aren’t told which of these factions is Arab and which is Berber.

  3. Pre-electoral violence in Libya
    Protesters demanding greater autonomy for eastern Libya have ransacked the offices of the electoral authority in Benghazi July 1—days ahead of the first parliamentary race since the fall of the Qaddafi regime. Some 300 people chanting pro-autonomy slogans took ballot boxes out of the building and burnt election papers in the street. Pro-autonomy leaders in eastern Libya have called for a boycott of the vote, demanding that eastern Libya to be given a larger share of seats in the new 200-member legislature, which is tasked with drawing up a constitution. Libya’s electoral law apportions 60 seats to eastern Libya and 102 to the west, with 38 going to the rest of the country. The boycott call was issued by a group that has proclaimed itself the authority of an autonomous territory of Cyrenaica. (BBC News, July 1)