Their choices are their own: Libya to give Mahmoud Jibril a Landslide Victory
Mahmoud Jibril, who served as interim prime minister in Libya from March to October 2011 in the Transitional National Council, is firmly believed to have won what is being dubbed as “a landslide victory in the country’s first democratic election”.
In a result that has come as a great surprise to those for whom the Arab Spring was little more than an opening up for Islamists, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, Jibril has called on the 150 political parties participating in the elections to form a ‘grand coalition’ – furthering his reputation as a political pragmatist.
It is estimated that around 1.8 million of the 2.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout of around 65 percent.
Another surprise of the election was how organised it was, and how smoothly the process went. As it has been summarised elsewhere “turnout for the national vote was good, violence was scarce, and voters were ebullient.”
As picked up by Juan Cole, there has been plenty of debate about what to do in Tunisia and Egypt about the remnants of the old regime (colloquially called ‘seaweed’ or ‘algae’), and the same is being had in Libya today.
Because of this Jibril has not been entirely free from criticism.
With Jibril being a former head of the National Planning Council of Libya and of the National Economic Development Board of Libya (NEDB) under Gaddafi he has been caught in the crossfire of this debate, though this is mitigated by his high-profile recruitment into the transition council as the country broke out into civil war in 2011.
The important issue for the country is what happens now. Colonel Gaddafi might be gone, though the hard task for future policymakers, set to run a very fractured political ship, is how to replace him.
One particular place where this will be complex is in how to present the old regime in the national curriculum. What is apparent, looking at educational textbooks from the 1970s, is that Gaddafi’s dream of absolute Pan-Arab unity often conflicted with any principles he pretended towards historical accuracy (geography textbooks for example were given to students without borders demarcating different Arab states).
The new Education Ministry has promised to revamp social studies textbooks in time for the 2012-2013 school year and revise history books within the next year or two – though given the extent to which history was distorted under Gaddafi, this looks evermore like an over-optimistic order.
To be sure, no one can judge how committed to historical accuracy and objectivity a new government under Jibril can be, nor can we foresee what kind of political landscape Libya will now bring. Though his reaching out to different political actors in an attempt at some national unity, that reflects the Libyan people’s genuine wishes, should give us hope.
Russia, it was said in a recent New York Times editorial, oppose change in Syria, and tried to block change in Libya, on the grounds that “revolutions have completely destabilized the region and cleared the road to power for the Islamists.”
In other words Putin was, and is, willing to see innocent people die for a series of ill-judged guesses about the political trajectory of countries after the Arab Spring. And this is even before we look at Russia’s weaponry client base.
But in Libya it did not happen this way.
Instead of delivering what everyone expected, the Libyan electorate has given a landslide victory to a moderate, a man who has been described by one voter as someone who “believes in national reconciliation”.
Gaddafi thought he could ignore the wishes of his people and “take the people to paradise in chains.” Unfortunately he kept those people in chains for 42 years, and paradise is the last thing they could expect.
Russia wanted to keep them in chains too, so as to continue selling weapons to Gaddafi – in much demand when he realised the potential of an angry population beneath him.
Times will be tough but Libya has said no to Gaddafi. They’ve ripped off their chains – and they’ve allowed themselves the free right to vote for who they believe will take them through the post-Gaddafi era, and then beyond.