Libya Elections Analysis 16 JUL 2012

Libya Elections Analysis 16 JUL 2012

Libya May Steer Clear of the Islamist Way

Mel Frykberg - IPSNews

Wednesday, July 11th 2012

At prayer in Tripoli. Credit: Karlos Zurutuza/IPS.

Libyans appear to be putting their hopes in Mahmoud Jibril’s liberal National Forces Alliance (NFA) to cement a coalition and build bridges between Libya’s fractious militias. Many believe the party can also unite other ideologically opposed political parties, and both opponents and supporters of former dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Jibril’s relatively secular NFA, a coalition party comprising approximately 40 groups, appears poised for victory following a strong voter turnout Saturday and Sunday in Libya’s first democratic elections in nearly 50 years.

In all, 130 political parties and 2,500 individual candidates took part in the historic elections, with 80 seats of the National Conference set aside for party nominees and 120 for directly elected individuals in what will form the new 200-seat parliament.

Jibril’s victory has bucked a trend in the Arab spring in that his NFA coalition has surged ahead of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Reconstruction Party (JRP), which many analysts had thought, along with the Islamist Al Watan party, would follow a regional trend and put Islamists ahead.

But despite the NFA’s strong showing, Islamist candidates could still win ground when the 120 seats set aside for individual candidates are counted over the next few days.

Jibril has reached out to his opponents and called for a national coalition. Despite the grand mufti Sheikh Sadik Al-Ghariani issuing a fatwa against the NFA, and a public edict warning Libyans against voting for secularists, the JRP is reportedly considering Jibril’s offer.

Jibril also appears to have the respect of both former opponents of Gaddafi and those who fought against him.

“Jibril is well educated and has international experience. He is the best man to lead Libya at the moment,” Majdi Shatawi, 29, a teacher who was a supporter of Gaddafi, and who believes the revolution was a mistake, told IPS.

On the opposing end of the political spectrum, Khaled Hamsha, 21, a policeman in crutches from a bullet wound to the leg, who fought with rebels against Gaddafi, also believes Jibril’s NFA is the best choice.

“Jibril is an intelligent businessman. He is honest and politically experienced. He gave a lot of his own money to the revolutionaries to help them overthrow Gaddafi even though he used to be part of Gaddafi’s government.”

Jibril graduated in economics and political science from Cairo University in 1975, before earning a master’s degree in political science in 1980 and a doctorate in political science in 1985 from the University of Pittsburgh in the U.S. where he then taught strategic planning for several years.

From 2007 to early 2011, he served in Gaddafi’s government as head of the National Planning Council and of the National Economic Development Board, but swapped sides during the civil war and was appointed head of the interim National Transitional Council (NTC).

His support for the revolutionaries, and his support base of former Gaddafi supporters might make Jibril the ideal candidate to bridge the political divides of the bloody revolution, but some also see him as a switchcoat opportunist.

Some local media reports say that former revolutionaries plan meetings across Libya to protest that Jibril has “stolen their revolution.”

Former rebel fighter Suheil al Lagi told IPS that many of the former rebels were dissatisfied with Jibril and the NTC. “We didn’t give our lives and blood to be ruled by the corrupt and greedy leaders we have now. If things continue they way they are, we will be forced to take up arms again.”

Former fighters accuse the government of being nepotistic and reserving government jobs and diplomatic positions for cronies.

Jibril also faces problems from federalists wanting greater autonomy in Libya’s east. The federalists have been behind a spate of violent attacks against government offices and property over the last few weeks. A helicopter was shot down, elections offices were torched, and several oil wells forced to stop pumping oil.

Libyan security forces are often outgunned and outpowered by the militias which still control swathes of the country, and who are able to mobilise faster than the security forces.

The National Front for the Salvation of Libya (NFSL) is a political party in Libya and former opposition movement to Muammar Gaddafi's regime. NFSL was established on 7 October 1981 at a press conferenceheld in Khartoum, Sudan. Its original leader was Muhammad Yusuf al-Magariaf, formerly Libyan ambassador to India.[1]

The NFSL's current secretary-general is Ibrahim Abdulaziz Sahad, a former Libyan military officer and diplomat. The most recent National Congress of the NFSL was held in the United States in July 2007.[2]


NFSL was based in Sudan until a coup d'état led to the fall of Colonel Gaafar Nimeiry in 1985. The NFSL has opposed military and dictatorial rule in Libya, and called for a democratic government with constitutional guarantees, free elections, a free press, andseparation of powers among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. NFSL launched a wide campaign to topple Gaddafi in Libya, establishing a short-wave radio station, a commando military training camp and also published a bi-monthly newsletter, Al Inqadh (Salvation). According to various sources, Saudi Arabia and the United States Central Intelligence Agency have supported the NFSL.[3][4][5][6]


The NFSL organizational structure is based on two primary bodies, the National Congress (المجلس الوطني) and the Permanent Bureau (المكتب الدائم). The National Congress is the highest authority in the NFSL. The Permanent Bureau is elected during the National Congress sessions and represents the legislative authority when it is not in session. The Permanent Bureau is also responsible for overseeing the executive body of the NFSL. The Executive Committee (اللجنة التنفذية) is led by the Secretary General, who is also elected during the National Congress sessions. The Executive Committee is made of several Commissioners who oversee the multiple programs of the opposition organization, as well as the Deputy Secretary General.

Current leadership

The NFSL Executive Committee is currently led by Secretary General Ibrahim Abdulaziz Sahad, who was re-elected for his second term during the 5th National Congress held in July 2007 in the United States.[7]. Sahad has appointed Mohammed Ali Abdallah as his Deputy, and selected four others to be members of the Executive Committee and to lead the different commissions formed by the Executive Committee.

The NFSL's Permanent Bureau (National Congress) leadership is currently led by Fawzi al-Tarabulsi, who was elected as Vice President of the National Congress and became the President upon Dr. Suleiman Abdalla's resignation as President of the National Congress in 2008. The Bureau's leadership also includes Vice-President Mohamed Saad and Rapporteur of the Bureau Mohamed Ali Binwasil.

Military action

Three weeks later, on 8 May 1984, NFSL's commandos took part in a daring attack on Gaddafi's headquarters at Bab al-Aziziyah barracks near Tripoli in an attempt to assassinate the Libyan leader. The attack was thwarted when the group's leader, Ahmed Ibrahim Ihwas, was captured when trying to enter Libya at the Tunisian border. Although the coup attempt failed and Gaddafi escaped unscathed, dissident groups claimed that some eighty Libyans, Cubans, and East Germans had been killed in the operation. However, some 2,000 people were arrested in Libya following the attack, and eight were hanged publicly.

NFSL continued its efforts to topple Gaddafi and formed the Libyan National Army (LNA), after a group of soldiers, taken prisoner byChad during the Chadian–Libyan conflict, defected from the Libyan Army and joined the NFSL in 1987. The LNA was later evacuated from Chad after the President Hissène Habré was overthrown by one of his former officers, Idriss Déby, who was backed by Gaddafi.

1984 embassy demonstration

On 17 April 1984, the NFSL organised a demonstration of Libyan dissidents outside the Libyan embassy in London. During the demonstration, shots were fired from the embassey into the group of protestors, striking eleven people, including one of the police officers controlling the demonstration, Yvonne Fletcher, who died shortly afterward. Fletcher's murder quickly led to the severing of diplomatic relations between Britain and Libya.

Political opposition

Having apparently given up the idea of a military takeover, the NFSL continues its opposition to Gaddafi by media campaigns and forming political alliances with other opposition groups. The NFSL was one of seven other Libyan opposition groups that formed theNational Conference for the Libyan Opposition (NCLO) which was formed in June 2005 at the first NCLO conference in London. The NFSL and three other organizations withdrew from this alliance in February 2008 citing differences of opinion. In a statement issued by the NFSL on February 28, 2008[8], the NFSL announced its withdrawal from the NCLO due to what it called "straying away from the 'National Accord of 2005'". The NFSL has continued its media campaigns, primarily utilizing online mediums. Though relatively weaker than before,[9] and without a clear method of carrying out its objective of topling the Gaddafi regime in Libya, the NFSL continues to be recognized as the leading opposition movement to Col. Gaddafi's regime in Libya.

On March 14, NFSL established in Benghazi political party, National Front Party, which will participate in upcoming elections.[10][11]