Libya's pragmatic vote for reform

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 July, 2012, 12:00am


The Arab spring has been under way for nearly two years, yet some experts and political commentators remain unconvinced about the prospects of these uprisings against dictatorships and autocracies ushering in more democratic rule. But Libya has confounded the sceptics by holding a largely peaceful and clean election. When disparate opposition elements morphed into a popular rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi's iron-fisted rule of 42 years, few gave it a real chance of success at toppling the regime. Within six months Gaddafi had fled into hiding and the revolutionary leaders starting exercising control from the capital, Tripoli. Now Libyans have taken the next step towards being able to govern themselves in a peaceful, secure society.

What also sets Libya apart is that the election result defied the regional trend, seen in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia, of Islamist parties sweeping to power. The moderate National Forces Alliance, a coalition of relatively liberal groups led by Mahmoud Jibril, the face of the uprising, soundly defeated the political wing of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood. There remains a long way to go before that can translate into Jibril's pledge that, after liberation, Libyans would be assured of a democratic system that honoured moderate Islam and respected the rule of law, in place of the personality cult that sustained Gaddafi's regime.

The alliance has won the contest for 80 seats reserved for parties under an electoral list system. The remaining 120 seats in an assembly that will pick a prime minister and cabinet before preparing for full parliamentary elections next year are reserved for candidates standing as independents. So far it augurs well for Libya's future that the people voted for a leader who campaigned on a pragmatic platform of economic and political reform. A priority for the next government will be to integrate regional militias into a loyal, unified defence force and create a stable climate for investment in the economy.