By Husni Bey, member of Libya First.
Tripoli, . . .[restrict]11 June 2014:
The 9th of June, 2014, was a good day in Libya. Let me explain.
It has been more than three years since the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi. Replacing a 40-year reign of terror and absolute control with the freedom and democracy, three years is more than sufficient time for a lot to go wrong. To be sure, much has gone wrong – some of it terrible, unforgivable and deserving of the sensational headlines.
That said however, much has not gone wrong.
But good news is does not make the news. Because of the nature of the news business, such positive progress usually receives scant media coverage.
For example, this Monday, our justice system ruled on the hotly contested election by the General National Congress of Ahmed Maetig as the next Prime Minister of Libya.
The issue was not whether he or the caretaker Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni candidate were good people or even whether they would make a good prime minister. The issue was whether the election was legal according to Libya’s existing law.
Much was at stake politically, and it could have gone either way. Reminiscent of the US presidential election dispute in 2000 between George W. Bush and his Democratic opponent Al Gore over the votes in Florida, the case in the end needed to be decided by the Supreme Court of the land.
Ultimately the Libyan Supreme Court ruled that the election process did not meet the rule of law, that Ahmed Maetig was not legally elected Prime Minister and that the transitional Prime Minister Abdullah Al-Thinni would remain in office until new elections could be held.
What was significant was not the outcome but that the decision was respected and accepted without acrimony by all parties involved.
For us Libyans, Monday was a good day and another reason for optimism. Monday’s ruling casts in diamond the segregation of powers and the independence of the judiciary. Slowly but surely we’re institutionalising the building blocks of democracy.
There are other reasons for optimism:
- Although we’ve had six transitional leaders since Qaddafi’s downfall, which admittedly is quite a few, each was elected and each transition was peaceful;
- This February nearly 40 percent of registered voters participated in peaceful Constitutional Assembly elections – which would be a very good turnout in most US elections. The Assembly continues its work, and we expect the new constitution to be put to a national referendum in the next few months;
- On 25 June, we will elect the House of Representative and go through the third transitional phase, handing over power peacefully for the third time;
- ?We have a higher representation of elected official females than any other country in the Middle East;
- Benghazi opened the third shopping mall since the revolution. Much more remains to be done, but this is a great start;
- The private sector in Libya is booming, growing at around 30 percent a year, double since the war in 2011. This rate completely overshadows public sector growth. Private sector growth creates jobs and stability as less people rely on government jobs and contracting;
- Most importantly, counter to the predictions most people have read, we have not slipped into civil war, nor will we do. While any casualties are deplorable, we have managed to keep any fighting fairly well contained.
To evaluate Libya’s progress or lack of it requires perspective. Did anyone who understood the history, geography and culture of Libya think the road to its democracy would be smooth and instantaneous?
The true measure of progress is not necessarily where you are, but how far you’ve come. We’ve come a long way in three years. We need to remember that somehow in the face of all of Libya’s challenges, democracy and the rule of law has managed to survive.
That, in and of itself, is a huge accomplishment.
There are no rose-tinted glasses here. We Libyans know better than anyone the reality on the ground. We know we have a long way to go. We know democracy is a process and does not come prepackaged. But we know that it is to be built step-by-step – and we’re going to get there.
We also know we can get there a lot faster if we have the encouragement and support – and the understanding – of the West.
Thus Monday was a good day. It was testament to what continues to motivate most Libyans: a united and prosperous Libya whose citizens can control their own destiny.
Elections to the new House of Representatives on 25 June is just two weeks away and that day we will reconfirm our commitment to the democratic process and peaceful transition.
Libya First is a new lobbying organisation to promote Libya’s interests. [/restrict]