Can Libya break its vicious cycle?

Author:Wood, David
Position:In-depth Analysis

The international community is pushing for Libya to hold elections this year, to stem the current anarchy. But voting, according to some, is unlikely to address the nation's underlying reservoir of turmoil--its vast, contested supply of oil and the no-holds-barred fight to get a slice of it. However, other, less popular approaches may hold a workable solution. Report by David Wood.

On the final day of April, Cairo hosted a crucial meeting between the African Union, Arab League, European Union and United Nations, lhe topic: Libya. After the summit, the delegates announced their recommendation --the embattled nation should hold presidential and parliamentary elections before the year's end.

Two days later, a pair of suicide bombers broke into the High National Elections Commission in the Libyan capital, Tripoli. Their attack, for which Islamic State has claimed credit, added 14 more bodies to Libya's post-revolutionary death toll.

"Tripoli is a city the international community has made significant efforts to secure," commented Issandr El Amrani, International Crisis Group's project director for North Africa. "This is a worrying sign."

Libya has endured varying degrees of anarchy since the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi. Countless armed groups maraud across the country, wielding real power while the UN-endorsed national government struggles for legitimacy.

The UN, along with several key foreign backers, points to fresh elections as the best option for filling this power vacuum. Many Libyans seem to agree, registering to vote in impressive numbers.

But a hasty poll might condemn Libya to even more turmoil. In 2014, Libya's most recent national vote resulted in bloodshed and the House of Representatives fleeing to Tobruk amid violent threats. The UN has since sponsored an inclusive unity government' to shepherd Libya towards fresh national polls.

"That was at a time when rival armed groups were less organised," BBC correspondent Ranajawad wrote this year. "Imagine holding another election today!"

And even if elections do occur safely, they are unlikely to resolve the fundamental source of conflict --a bitter struggle to control Libya's oil reserves. Ahmed Jehani, former World Bank country director for Libya, believes that democracy will not take hold until the country adopts a fairer, less corrupt economic system.

To date, the international community has shown far more interest in sponsoring elections. If the polls again end in chaos--and...

To continue reading