As the results of the final preliminary elections in Libya came through last week, one thing has surprised commentators around the world: Libyans don’t seem to want the Islamist politicians of the kind Tunisia and Egypt have elected.
The biggest portion of the vote has gone to the party of the National Transitional Council, the current interim government that took power after the fall of Libya’s eccentric dictator, Muammar Al-Gaddafi. The party, The National Forces Alliance (NFA), is headed by Mahmoud Jibril, who was the acting Prime Minister for the main rebel body during part of the last eight months. Jibril came to prominence at the start of the revolution as one of the first high-profile defectors from the Gaddafi regime; he then became the face of the Libyan struggle on the world stage as he met state leaders and helped spread support for the rebel cause.
Libya is generally considered a more religious country than either Tunisia or Egypt…
What was most surprising in the recent results was that the NFA gained over double the amount of votes of the Muslim Brotherhood. This, though an epic amount, should not be taken as a sign of Libya’s political future: only 80 seats were reserved for political parties whereas 120 were reserved for independents, the way parliament will sway is still anyone’s guess.
Jibril has said that his party will look for guidance in legislation from Sharia law, but he is far from an Islamist. Libya is generally considered a more religious country than either Tunisia or Egypt but, from what interviewees around the country have been saying, Libyans understand that separation of Church and State is needed. One interviewee summed it up perfectly: “Libyans don’t need politicians to tell them how to be good Muslims.” One could even argue that this was one good legacy of Gaddafi’s time at the top; Libyans are sick of politicians using Islam as a way to stay in power: no-one wants a repeat of Gaddafi’s pseudo-Muslim ramblings.
…their only choices as ex-regime members and Islamists.
It looks like Jibril will become the next president, and he will be the first new president from the Arab spring to be known for his liberalism. One down side to Jibril, that most commentators are quick to point out, is that he is an ex-member of the Gaddafi regime. Also, Jibril was head of the National Planning Council, though he has said this was not a political role.
The sad thing that has been seen in all the historic elections in the Middle East in recent months is that the populations involved have had their only choices as ex-regime members and Islamists. The real change in the region is going to come a lot slower as the current generation of politicians, most of whom are tainted by former regimes, are seen off by the next generation, who will know the importance of their democracies.