Libya remains a fairly conservative society. Religion plays an important role across its social, political and economic strata. The gap between religious and secular candidates is much narrower when compared to Egypt and Tunisia. If anything, tribal links and not religiosity play a more decisive role. However, sharp differences do exist in certain areas. For centrists, Libya should be guided by the spirit of Islamic law. More fundamentalist elements prefer its direct application.
With voter turnout over 60 per cent, the composition of Libya’s new parliament remains puzzling. Even with the centrist National Forces Alliance (NFA) obtaining a majority of the 80 seats allocated by proportional representation, the political affiliations of the 120 seats won by individuals remains unclear.
Therefore, outreach across the political spectrum by leading party officials is essential. Coalition-building will provide the first major test for Libya’s new emerging political class. The presence of the NFA leader, Mr. Mahmoud Jibril, on the political scene is indispensable. He served as interim prime minister of the National Transitional Council, which led the struggle against Colonel Muammar Qaddafi.
Throughout the electoral process, Mr. Jibril has been using the appropriate rhetoric to build bridges between disparate forces. As a war leader, Mr. Jibril possesses a basic level of legitimacy at home and abroad that can help provide guidance during Libya’s critical transition.
As Libya embarks on building a new national narrative, it desperately needs figures capable of forging a broad public consensus. This is a rare commodity in a country where any form of opposition, whether organized or individual, was immediately eliminated during 42 years of oppression.
The protracted bloody conflict against Qaddafi provides Libyans with a strong underlying bond. Libyans did not simply protest in squares and streets. They achieved freedom through sacrificing their lives in an armed struggle which claimed thousands. It was spearheaded by citizen soldiers on the front lines: lawyers, teachers, doctors, civil servants and ordinary people from all walks of life.
The blood spilled must seal the unity of the Libyan nation. Failure to do so will squander the historical price paid in defeating dictatorship. Colonel Qaddafi often maintained that only he could rule Libyans. Without him, civil war and chaos would prevail. The posthumous justification of Qaddafi’s claim would amount to Libya’s greatest tragedy.
Vicenzino, director of the Global Stategy Project, provides geo-political advisory services and regularly serves as conference speaker and analyst for global media outlets.