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Libya’s NTC struggles to stay the “good guys”

Libya’s NTC struggles to stay the “good guys”

As a relative unknown gets elected as interim PM in Libya, cracks begin to show in the NTC solidarity started with wrangling over Gaddafi's body.

November 2, 2011 1:27 by

…necessarily happen, but it is vital that the NTC take steps to form a centralised armed force or disarm the militias, both of which will be very delicate and difficult tasks in the current environment.”

Leaders of those cities, the most powerful being Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata, are all heavily involved in the debate over the future direction of both the NTC and Libya. Most attend political meetings with heavily armed bodyguards.

“They’re treating government like a big chocolate box where they’re bargaining over who gets the toffee,” one diplomat said.
“‘You give us defence and you can have internal affairs’. But what are they arguing about really? There still haven’t been any elections. They can’t keep the jobs long term.”

It is those regional divides that are seen in Libya as being potentially fractious – and the biggest challenge the NTC faces – rather than the debate between secularists and Islamists that has provoked some alarm in the Western media.

Many analysts believe that as long as the organisation around the interim arrangements can stay cohesive until the elections, the outcome can be good for ordinary Libyans.

With Gaddafi gone, the mantle of the glue holding the NTC together has been handed to its chairman, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, a consenus-builder respected by people from all regions and by moderates, conservatives, Islamists and secularists.
It is not clear, however, what Abdel Jalil’s ambitions are.

“He’s tired,” one NTC official said of Gaddafi’s former justice minister. “I don’t think he wants to lead Libya. I think we’ll see him go for any of the top jobs when we have the elections.”

With the spectre of Abdel Jalil perhaps stepping aside and with an unknown appointed as prime minister for the interim, it is proving difficult for potential investors and for other Libyan officials to know whom to do business with at this stage – let alone who may emerge once full elections are held.

“It’s hard to know which horses to bet on when you don’t have very accurate odds on them,” a diplomat from an Arab state told Reuters. “But countries are making bets, anyway.”

On how long the NTC glue can hold, prognoses vary wildly.

Some see a return to all out civil war between rival militias. Others bet on the emergence of a fledgling democracy with the potential to become a regional powerhouse.

Most analysts, though, fall somewhere between the two, predicting peaceful politicking with some low-level skirmishes possible as Libya moves down a bumpy path of change.

For many, it would be a worry if the men at the top were not openly arguing over the spoils of war or engaging in debates about what role Islam should play in politics – secularists lining up against, for now, their Islamist allies.

“It’s good because it’s the essence of democracy,” said Libyan political scientist, Ahmed al-Atrash. “But we’re learning. Libyans are not aware of how democracy works yet. But we are very serious about moving this forward – to establish a democracy without this international criminal in charge.” (By Barry Malone; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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