The recent Libyan elections have been praised by the western media. Apparently Libya has finally set off on the path towards prosperity. But how free and open were the elections, and what can we expect for the future of this proud and wealthy nation?
No democracy can function without an open media. Yet the National Transitional Council has passed laws prohibiting free speech, article 37 says that Libyans can be jailed for “Speech that glorifies Kaddafi, insults Islam, insults the revolution, and lowers the moral of Libyan citizens”.1 News Anchors who stopped going to work in protest have been forced to return to work at gunpoint and report news that they don’t agree with. The Libyan television stations broadcast through NileStat have been taken over by the NTC, Qatar, and western media outlets.2 A fair election with 3,000 candidates is impossible without free media and an open public discourse.
Aside from the restrictions on media there have also been severe restrictions placed on who can qualify for office. The NTC reserves the right to arbitrarily deny any candidate.3 Additional restrictions include: members of local councils, leaders of the people’s congresses, people’s committees and related groups. The people’s congress was open to all Libyans as the foundation of their system of direct democracy, 4 so denying participation to members of the people’s congress basically denies all politically active people in Libya.
Anyone who had taken part in protest against the revolution is also restricted. Considering the massive pro-Kaddafi demonstrations in Tripoli, Sabah, Al Ajaylat, Ziltan, Zawiya, Azizia, Sirte, and elsewhere 5 this eliminates millions of Libyans from eligibility. In a country of only 6 million this represents a huge percentage of the population.
Even if there were a free press and inclusive process it would be challenging for Libyans to hold informed elections under current conditions. An estimated 30,000 people were killed during the Libyan conflict, less than a thousand of those during the fighting before the NATO intervention.7 The number of civilian casualties from the 6,000 NATO airstrikes 9 is unknown, but a Human Rights Watch investigation of only eight strikes revealed 72 civilian casualties, mostly women and children. 10 NATO also bombed vital infrastructure such as hospitals, powers stations, gas facilities and government buildings leaving many Libyans in a struggle for survival.11
Subsequent to the NATO intervention and civil war Libyan society broke into factions and saw extreme reprisal killings and ethnic cleansing, most notably the persecution of the black Libyans falsely accused of being mercenaries. The town of Tuarega was cleansed of its 30,000 residents who were forced to flee or be killed.12 5,000 people are still being held in militia run detention centers. 13 Election day saw violence and protest, along with and armed militia presence in the street.14
Given the circumstances of the election it is not surprising that Libya is on a fast track towards neo-liberal exploitation. Mahmoud Jabril has been elected leader of the majority party the National Forces Alliance. They are openly in favor of globalization, privatization, foreign ownership of oil resources, the creation of “special economic zones” for the location of international corporations, and other neo-liberal policies. It seems that once again the weUStern powers have exported democracy of and for the international corporations, and already the plundering has begun.15
Seth Rutledge is from New York, his blog can be read at Alchemicalnursery.org and he can be followed on twitter/sniffingratty.
1 Al Jazeera Listening Post, “Covering Libya’s first post-Giddafi elections”, 16 July 2012.
“Mahmud Shammam, a well-known Libyan expatriate journalist who edits Foreign Policy’s Arabic edition.” Foreign policy is a division of the Washington Post http://www.foreignpolicy.com/about_us
3 “Draft Libyan Electoral Law 2012” The National Transitional Council. http://www.libyanprogress.org/articles/draft-libyan-electoral-law-2012-english-translation/
4 “Popular Conferences”
5 Foreign Policy Journal, “France Says NATO Bombing Has Failed”, 12 July 2011. http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2011/07/12/france-says-nato-bombing-has-failed/
Sebha demonstration 08/07/2011
Al Ajaylat demonstration 14/07/2011
Zlitan Demonstration 15/07/2011
Zawiyah - demonstration - 16/07/2011
Demonstration - Azizia - 19/07/2011
7 Lecture to the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, in The Hague, Netherlands, May 29, 2012, by Prof. Alan J. Kuperman, LBJ School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin.
8 Human Rights Watch, “Unacknowledged Deaths”, 14 May 2012.
9 Al Jazeera, “NATO ‘ignoring civilian deaths in Libya’”, 14 May 2012.
11 Global Research, ““Blanket of Darkness” over Tripoli. NATO Targets Electricity Generation. Launches Psychological Attacks”, 7 August 2012.
12 Amnesty International, UK Libya: Tawarghas being targeted in reprisal beatings and arrests, http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=19674 (September 2011).
Uruknet, “Libya: Ethnic cleansing, genocide and the Tawergha”. http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m81833 (27 September 2011).
13 Libya Herald, Five Thousand Still in Militia Controlled Detention Centers as Deadline for Handover Passes, http://www.libyaherald.com/?p=11081 (July 2012).
14 The Guardian, Libyan militia storm election office in Benghazi as violence spreads, 1 July 2012.
15 Land Destroyer Report, All candidates are neo-imperial candidates- Wall Street proxy Jibril of “National Forces Alliance” presumed winner, 9 July 2012
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