Continuing Turbulence in Libya

Libya is functioning much better than many analysts had predicted. Oil production has bounced back faster than expected and the Interim Government has so far been reasonably effective in returning the country to a semblance of normality. But no one can fail to recognise that there are big challenges ahead and political uncertainty and indecision could well impact the pace of commercial progress. This remains of concern to the international business community.

One challenge – more a minefield – is the election later in the year of a national constituent assembly. The Interim Government has posted a draft law laying down steps to be taken to establish an assembly but the draft is noteworthy for the difficult and contentious issues it raises like the allocation of only 10% of the total of 200 seats in the assembly to women and categorising those eligible to stand for election to the assembly; or issues it fudges like the delineation of electoral districts and the formation of political parties. Libyans with dual nationality, for example, will have to renounce their foreign nationality before standing for election which understandably has caused some adverse comment. No doubt the draft will be 'adjusted' to make it more widely acceptable.

But the real challenge in the coming months will be to disarm the militia groups and bring them into the electoral process. A call from the National Transitional Council for them to hand in their weapons and submit to state control by 20 December 2011 went largely unheeded. The Interim Defence Minister, who hails from Zintan where Saif Al-Islam is incarcerated, admitted that it would take "weeks" to disband the militias. Meanwhile the security situation is bound to remain tenuous.

It may take rather more than “weeks” for militias to heed the call to disband. Militia groups will be jockeying for position in a new assembly because from the assembly will flow a host of key actions like appointing a prime minister, holding a referendum to approve a new constitution and arranging general elections for a permanent government - all of which will determine the very essence of a future Libya. There is much at stake and already Islamic groups have voiced criticism of the draft election law claiming that it will encourage voting along tribal lines.

The coming months will be key for Libya and the international community will be watching developments with a keen eye.

By Chris Holden, Director, MEC International Ltd. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Libya Business News

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