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New Libya Party offers Hope for Democracy

Athena Tacet | jhrConcordia


As the international community is stuck in a diplomatic deadlock in Libya, rebels and expats coming from the Diaspora are taking their fate in their own hands and creating the first political party for democracy in the country.

Thought to have been inspired by French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Muammar Gaddafi once developed in his revolutionary Green Book the idea of Jamahiriya. According to this philosophy men should be in control of their own destiny and decide on how history should unfold. Ironically this is exactly what the Libyan rebels have undertaken for the last six months.

Gaddafi who, 42 years after toppling King Idris of Libya was once recognised as a hero and was named “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution”. Today he has become the reason why thousands of Libyans have taken the streets in a bloody anti-government revolution.

To continue the fight for democracy, Ramadan Ben Amer and Rajad Mabruk founded on Wednesday, July 27th, the New Libya Party.

The party was founded in Benghazi in the headquarters of the recognised National Transitional Council (NTC) and aims at reforming the country. It has also imported a rather Western liberal conception of democracy, stipulating a clear separation of powers.

“We call ourselves the New Libya Party because everything was destroyed,” said Ramadan Ben Amer, one of the two founders of the party to an AFP journalist. “Gaddafi says he has built Libya brick by brick but, especially Benghazi, he has destroyed it brick by brick,” he added.

In a country which is paving the way for the post-Gaddafi era, this party seems particularly encouraging.

One month after it was created, the New Libya Party has already shown progress in trying to unite rebels into establishing a free and democratic Libya. Recently, the NTC had expressed in a European diplomatic tour the necessity for rebels to prepare a harmonious democratic transition with some degree of international help. Thus, the head of Libya’s rebel Cabinet, Mahmoud Jibril, discussed on Wednesday the country’s political prospects with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.

Another essential step was taken this week when the UN Security Council decided to vote on a resolution, which would release $1.5 billion in US frozen assets to Libya. These assets which were frozen to prevent Gaddafi from waging a war against his own people are now essential for the NTC to reconstruct Libya’s economy. No election has been organised so far in Benghazi, as political parties remain illegal in the country. Nonetheless, it is rather promising that the National Transition Council has expressed the necessity to establish internationally overseen elections with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Aljazeera reports.

Fears have been expressed however about the degree to which this imported democracy might turn itself into a political branch serving NATO’s interests in Libya. Although the party does have a political agenda stating a western-based conception of democracy, there is no reason to believe that Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism might apply here. Rather than a tool for the “colonialist” western world to control the country, as Gaddafi might argue, the New Libya Party seems to fight for a democracy of the Libyans, by the Libyans and for the Libyans.

Introducing political parties, which have been forbidden in the country since 1972, would represent a major first step towards the creation of an alternative system to Gaddafi’s ideology, which has been similar to the one observed in the Eastern European post communist societies. Power is in the hands of an elite who controls an apathetic population and is submitted to a mythical paternal figure, in this case, “Supreme Leader” Gaddafi.

The problem is that for political mobilisation and participation to exist, there is a serious need for the population to be educated and informed. Gaddafi has unfortunately been very successful in controlling the system of education and suppressing the public opinion . His methods include ideological preparation camps and untill recently the eradication of foreign languages from schools.

In the last 42 years, investments could have been made in education and infrastructure thanks to the oil-derived economy. But this was not in the interests of the leader. The  nation’s economy is  primarily petroleum-derived . Thus, Libya represented the most useful tool for Gaddafi to fulfill his aspirations in a system he corrupted , buying citizens loyalties. Therefore deterring political participation and preventing the emergence of a democratic government.

The point here is not to demonize a man but rather to observe the results from his policies, and to look for solutions. The New Libya Party will hopefully represent a first step towards the establishment of a true electoral democracy.  In the area of resources, breakthroughs can be made if the oil-derived wealth were to be used as a means to reform the economic system.

Despite some criticisms and fears expressed towards the emergence of the New Libya Party, it seems that it is for the moment the only potential tool for the establishment of a meaningful democratic system. Regardless of the possible current or future internal religious or political divergences among the rebels, their common goal to overcome the stumbling economy and to build a free and fair system should represent a unifying constituent.

­­­­­Sporadic clashes continue across Tripoli and near the strategic Bab al-Aziziya compound, where Gaddafi’s power is centralised. Bodies keep piling up as ” The Supreme Leader” is yet to be found. The Libyan Revolution has been the scene of a real humanitarian disaster since it started last February, and the recent “Battle for Tripoli” was particularly devastating in terms of human losses.

The government’s spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim,  was quoted in the Guardian last Sunday mentioning that the battle resulted in the death of more than 1,300 Libyans and the injury of 5,000.

Enough blood has been shed and enough useless dialogues and diplomatic double plays have taken place during this revolution. It is time for the politicisation of a new generation of Libyans to take place and the New Libya Party might be its precursor.

For now, an international conference recently announced by President Sarkozy will take place on Sept.1 to discuss the aftermath of the Libyan Revolution as well as Libya’s reconstruction. The National Transitional Council needs to ensure that human rights and justice for Libyans will be respected throughout the upcoming transitional period.

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