Why We Can’t Expect Western-Style Democracy In Libya
Despite all the millennial rhetoric surrounding the civil war in Libya, the cold reality is that Libyans do not want — and perhaps don’t understand — a Western style democratic state:
Libya Militias Turn to Politics, a Volatile Mix - David Kirkpatrick via NYTimes.com
After 42 years of a through-the-looking-glass dictatorship that billed itself as a participatory “rule of the masses,” Libyans appear to distrust democracy. In a poll of Libyans conducted in December and January by a research arm of Oxford University, only 15 percent of the more than 2,000 respondents said they wanted some form of democracy within the next 12 months, while 42 percent said they hoped Libya would be governed by a new strongman. Perhaps most worrisome: a significant minority, about 16 percent, said they were ready to use violence for political ends.
The leaders of the regional militias insist that they are the guardians of democracy, compensating for the leadership failures of the Transitional National Council. But they often continue to rely on armed might outside any legal or political process.
When a peaceful demonstration in Benghazi urged federalism, the interior minister — a militia leader from Misurata — publicly threatened to lead an armed force from his hometown to fight what he called a threat to national unity.
Fawzi Bukatief, commander of an alliance of 40 eastern brigades based in Benghazi, said he was close to announcing a national union of militias, independent of the Defense and Interior Ministries. He said the union could use its firepower to crack down on other armed groups still operating in Tripoli.
“We will stop them, or imprison them,” he said. “We know the fighters. We will decide who is a revolutionary and who is not.”
“The militias are the problem,” he added, “but also the solution.”
We can expect Libya to fall into quasi independent regions, partly because of tribalism and factionalism, but largely because Qaddafi, the strong man, suppressed regional interests through the control of the state and its resources.
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