What Happens When Gaddafi Is Gone?

The Gaddafi regime is seemingly on its last legs in Libya; questions are inevitably being raised about what comes next for a country where the trappings of a normal state simply do not apply.

Muammar Gaddafi created such a personalized system of governing that he left no space for anything beyond himself, his family and the narrow ruling elite, many of whom were drawn from his own tribe, the Qadhadhfa.

Unlike in Tunisia or Egypt, forces that could help smooth a transition process such as political parties, trades unions, opposition groups or civil organizations simply do not exist in Libya.

Indeed, the country is been notable for its almost total lack of functioning institutions.

There is no obvious unifying force or personality who could step in and take over, leaving the risk of a major power vacuum. This would see various players, primarily tribal leaders, seeking to assert themselves, or at least to take control of their own areas.

Given the long history of antagonism between Libya’s tribes, this is unlikely to be a harmonious process.

Indeed, some Libyans fear that the country may descend into anarchy and chaos or, in the worst case scenario, civil war.

While the prospect of civil war is probably rather exaggerated, conflict and violence are a real possibility. To avoid such chaos, some Libyans are looking to the army to save the day by ousting Col Gaddafi and overseeing a transition process.

However, Libya’s army is unprofessional, divided and has been purposefully kept weak by Gaddafi over the years. Nevertheless, some elements from within the armed forces have defected to the protesters, along with a handful of senior government figures and diplomats.

Libya’s best hope may lie in these figures, who in conjunction with representatives from other walks of Libyan life may be able to smooth the way after Gaddafi.

These representatives would include members of the opposition abroad, pro-reform intellectuals and members of the formal religious establishment who were quick to support the protesters in the early days.

Such a collection of figures would need to work closely with tribal leaders to try to safeguard the country. Unfortunately, whether such disparate groups with so much history of antagonism could come together and reach a consensus is questionable.

There are even suggestions, which are not entirely without foundation, that the east may break away and form its own independent region. Such attempts would be likely to result in further chaos and bloodshed.

Perhaps its best bet would be to reach out to those forces capable of managing a transition, offering support and assistance with state-building in the longer term. Such support will be crucial if Libya is to survive the post-Gaddafi era.

Meanwhile, neighboring countries will be eyeing developments closely. A destabilized Libya is the last thing that Tunisia and Egypt want as they struggle through their own transition processes.

Complete article via BBC

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