It’s over to you, Dr Jibril

Mahmoud Jibril’s emphatic victory, in the political party list of the Libyan elections, has been widely reported, and his success is no exaggeration.

In a race involving 374 party lists, Dr Jibril’s alliance won just under 50 per cent of the 80 seats reserved for parties alone. But he won an even greater percentage of the votes cast, 62 per cent, and it is reckoned that he would have won more seats had his alliance contested every available district. The second-placed party, identified with the Muslim Brotherhood, obtained 21.3% of the vote.

In some districts he obtained 90% of the vote. He beat one of his major rivals, Abdelhakim Belhadj, leader of the (Islamist) Union for the Homeland and former head of the Tripoli Military Council, on the latter’s own home turf of the Tripoli suburb of Souq al-Jumaa.

Even where Dr Jibril did badly, he did rather better than expected. In Misurata, he trailed both a political party led by a distinguished local notable as well as Mr Belhadj.  Misurata’s long siege had reinforced an already strong esprit de corps for the city, which was also extended to other fighters, such as Mr Belhadj.

And Misurata’s politicians are generally named as a leading force behind the ouster of Dr Jibril from the premiership of the National Transitional Council. It seems they resented him for several things, including for being a Warfalli from Bani Walid.

In this context, it is remarkable that Dr Jibril obtained any significant number of votes at all. Yet, his vote tally amounted to a third of the votes cast for the political party that came first and half of the votes cast for the second-placed party.

The challenge before Dr Jibril, his adversaries and their successors is to create a democracy in unprecedented circumstances. If Western observers want to be able to follow the events as they unfold, we must stop assuming that Libya’s politics can be mainstream.

(Source: Times of Malta)

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