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Libya power transition: Who can stop the chaos?

Published time: August 08, 2012 11:00
Edited time: August 09, 2012 02:30

Anti-Gaddafi fighters take part in a demonstration in Benghazi June 7, 2012 to demand the application of Islamic law, or Sharia law, in Libya (Reuters / Esam Al-Fetori)

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The interim authorities in Libya have handed over power to a nationally-elected assembly. But as numerous rival armed groups control most of Libya, the escalation of violence continues against a background of an increasingly divided nation.

During a ceremony late on Wednesday in Tripoli, NTC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil passed the reins to the oldest member of the assembly, Mohammed Ali Salim.

Once it receives full power, the National Assembly is expected to elect a prime minister and a cabinet.

The NTC, which ruled the country after the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi, will then be dissolved.

The first democratic election in Libya in decades, held last month, was conducted amid unceasing acts of violence.

Before the elections, Libya's National Transitional Council banned parties based on tribal, ethnic or religious affiliation from participating in the parliamentary elections. Those people who had proven links with the toppled regime of Colonel Gaddafi were also banned.

That might explain why the majority of the 200 seats in the Assembly now belongs to individual candidates with unknown agendas.

It is hard to predict how these people are going to find common ground to form a cohesive government capable of projecting consistent policies.

The conflict in Libya did not actually end with the assassination of the Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi last October. Sparks of violence continue throughout the country, particularly in the eastern city of Benghazi, the birthplace of the uprising in Libya.

The militants are specifically targeting the security apparatus of the country, attacking police stations and law enforcement officers. In Benghazi itself there have been several attacks on intelligence services and military personnel. The Red Cross mission in Benghazi has announced its pull-out since the series of military attacks have been targeting the mission’s personnel as well.

The Libyan capital is also engulfed with unrest. The latest bombing attack took place on Saturday, when a car bomb exploded near a military police building in Tripoli.

The third major source of unrest is the south of the country, where various sectarian groups and organizations clash with each other over control of the region.

“The country is currently divided into three particular areas: the east, the west and the south. There is no central power, so when we talk about transferring power – I don’t know who is going to transfer the power and to whom they are going to transfer it? The situation is anarchic,” Dr Conn Hallinan, a columnist at Foreign Policy in Focus, told RT. “I don’t see where exactly the Assembly is going to draw its power from.”

The biggest fraction in the Assembly belongs to the National Forces Alliance, which won 39 seats. The Alliance, headed by former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, is a pro-US political party, while Jibril himself was educated in the US, Hallinan pointed out.

Other political parties represented in the National Assembly constitute a political patchwork.

“There are a lot of different agendas in Libya and so far it depends on who’s got the guns,” Hallinan told RT.

There have been constant disagreements running high between rival fractions of militia formally subordinate to the National Transitional Council. This made NTC militants unable to maintain adequate security within the country.

If the situation continues to develop along the same lines, “it is going to be almost impossible for them to enact any type of rational domestic or foreign policy inside of Libya,” Abayomi Azikiwe, an editor at Pan-African News Wire, told RT.

“The US is hoping that this [new] government will result in the regime that they can do business with. But the majority of people inside of Libya have serious questions about the capacity of this government to form some type of a stable regime,” Abayomi Azikiwe evaluated.

The beginning of the democratic process in Libya, so anticipated by the West, might go absolutely wrong if the elected Assembly also fails to establish security within the country. But the task of pacifying of tens of thousands of armed militia forces – accused of human rights abuses – roaming the country could become a truly unmanageable one.

However, if the new Libyan authorities fail to bring peace to the country, that wouldn’t become an obstacle for the US to control its vast oil reserves, believes Richard Spencer, founder and co-editor of AlternativeRight.com.

“I think the US is very happy if Libya becomes a chaotic place where there is no real central power opposing anything they do,” he shared adding that “political stability and having the oil flow are two very different things.”

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