Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Libya on the Eve of Elections

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Libya on the Eve of Elections

Article excerpt

The Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) held a June 12 panel discussion titled "Libya on the Eve of Elections: Examining the Challenges of Political and Economic Development" at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, DC. The discussion was moderated by Sarah Margon, associate director for sustainable security at the Center for American Progress.

POMED executive director Stephen McInerney opened the discussion by reflecting on his recent trip to Libya, during which he spent four days in Benghazi and four days in Tripoli meeting with political and civil society leaders. "I'm more optimistic [now] than when I got there," he said, suggesting that Libya "benefits from seeing the elections in Egypt and Tunisia." The experience of seeing their neighbors undertake democratic elections is critical, McInerney explained, because Libya was devoid of any type of election, legitimate or otherwise, under the reign of Muammar Qaddafi.

McInerney tempered his optimism, however, by admitting, "There is a lot of confusion regarding the electoral system. It is possibly the world's most complicated system." Nevertheless, he said, "I was impressed with the way they [political parties] were willing to play by the rules, rules they may not understand."

Manal Omar, director of Iraq, Iran and North Africa Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace's Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations, echoed McInerney's optimism. After years of studying post-conflict countries, she said, "Libya re-energized me." Omar went on to describe the 10 biggest challenges facing Libyans, the most significant of which was the challenge of governmental legitimacy. "People really want to believe in ballot over bullet," she remarked.

Regarding the issue of security in Libya and the challenge it presents for the incoming government, Omar referred to McInerney's earlier remark that "most people in Libya are armed. …

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