This past Wednesday, Libyans went to the polls to choose the members of a new parliament that is supposed to preside over the rest of the country’s transitional phase amid widening political chaos and deteriorating security. Some 45 percent of the 1.5 million eligible voters registered to vote. That’s a significant drop from the 2.8 million who registered to vote for the General National Congress (GNC) elections in 2012. The drop in turnout offers additional evidence, if anyone needed it, that Libyans are deeply frustrated with the democratic process in their country. It’s easy to understand why many might feel that there’s little point to voting: past elections haven’t brought relief from Libya’s festering problems. Indeed, there’s a case to be made that holding elections in a country already beset with widespread violence and deepening polarization can make things worse. In this view, the election results are almost certain to be ignored by parties who didn’t do well at the ballot box and by those who prefer to see an authoritarian regime.
The Islamists suffered a huge defeat in the elections for the Constituent Assembly earlier this year, so they might well be tempted to dismiss the electoral process altogether. Ironically, their skepticism about the utility of voting is echoed by General Khalifa Haftar, their sworn enemy. At one point Haftar demanded a postponement of the elections until the end of his current military campaign against Islamist militias. Later he changed his mind and announced that he would allow the elections to go ahead; he even went so far as to declare a ceasefire in parts of Benghazi where fighting has been going on so that voting could take place. Some see Haftar’s political statements as an indication of his true intentions for Libya, which probably involve authoritarian military rule. Haftar clearly views the military regime of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as a model.
In short, the pessimists would seem to have a strong case these days. And if they wanted to, they could also cite the brutal killing, also on last Wednesday, of Salwa Bughaighis, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist. Salwa had been a long-time critic of the Islamists, and particularly of the extremist militia Ansar al-Sharia, who are now fighting Haftar’s national army forces in Benghazi. Her death is merely the latest in a long string of political assassinations in the city: hardly a good omen for the future of Libyan democracy.
Full Article: Contrary to Popular Belief, Libya Still Needs Elections.