LIBYA REMAINS TORN BY POLITICAL AND TRIBAL DIFFERENCES
After being relentlessly bombed by NATO and the West, which now have control of its vast oil resources, Libya has weathered a rocky yet historic parliamentary election.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire, Detroit, about the restrictions of democracy in the elections in Libya and how the holding of elections has served to reinforce tribal differences and inequalities. The following is an approximate transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Do you think these election indicators are enough to signal a transition to full democracy in Libya, of course in due time?
Azikiwe: I believe there are a lot more dynamics and obstacles to overcome in the process. In many ways the elections have reinforced the historic divisions inside of Libya.
If we look at the response from many people in the eastern region, there were calls for boycotts; there were calls for non-participation; there was even violence, attacks on polling stations, the burning of ballot boxes and ballot paper. Also there was a helicopter that was shot down just two days ago over Braga.
Many of the cities in the east, they had problems carrying out these elections. Also in areas in the south of the country.
Even under the previous monarchy that ruled in Libya between 1951 and 1969 there were problems in developing some type of national identity for the country.
This is probably why under the Gaddafi government between 1969 and 2011, they aborted the political party process. Because it had been marred even going back to the only previous election, which was held in 1952, that also resulted in violence and in the aftermath of that election in 1952 – this was even under the monarchy – political parties were banned inside of Libya.
So, I think that the regional differences in many ways have been reinforced by this election that was held today.
Press TV: Well from that response my next question is quite interesting – Mr. McCain has come out with very positive comments about the election in Libya. What do you think in that country’s election has made him so hopeful?
Azikiwe: He has a lot of political capital invested in this entire process. He was one of the main proponents of US and NATO military intervention in Libya last year.
That is how the current National Transitional Council (NTC) government came to power. It came to power largely because of the large-scale bombing of the country – some 26,000 sorties; nearly 10,000 air strikes between March and October of 2011.
He had visited Benghazi during the uprising last year so I think it’s in his interests and he principally represents the more hawkish wing of the US Congress. It’s definitely in his interests to put a positive face on this election.
But we have to remind ourselves that many of the political forces that have been active in Libya prior to the overthrow of Gaddafi last year were banned from participating in this vote.
The government has given a 60 percent official participation rate for the elections, but that still is not official and we cannot avoid the fact that in over 100 locations throughout the country they were not able to hold elections today as a result of the violence; the refusal of people to even accept ballot boxes and ballot papers; and also a general boycott in areas of the South as well as the East of Libya.
So I still think there is a lot to be done to convince most people in Libya and throughout the region that this is the best political way forward.
Press TV: Now that Muammar Gaddafi is out after four decades of his ruling, what do you think now the shape of the government in Libya will be after this historic vote?
Azikiwe: It remains to be seen because as you mentioned in your lead-in, there are still many people there who are proponents of a federal system. Many of the people feel that the new assembly that is being put together by the NTC and will supposedly be reinforced in the aftermath of this election, will give disproportionate control of the new government to people in the western part of Libya.
They (the western region) have the overwhelming number of seats in this new parliament that is supposed to come into existence; people in the East have a lesser number of seats; and the people in the South have the least amount of seats in the new parliament.
Also the NTC regime is responsible for appointing the Constitutional Committee, it will not be appointed by the new parliament that is supposed to be seated in the aftermath of this election. So there is still a lot of political conflict and political differences that exist regionally and in other ways inside of Libya.