Let the people of Libya decide not who has the best guns

Ann Ann Marlowe published the article: Democracy for Libya: Why the Odds Are Good at
http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/new/blogs/marlowe/Democracy_for_Libya_Why_the_Odds_Are_Good

Perhaps the odds for democracy are good because over several decades the people of Libya have enjoyed the opportunity to build a foundation for democracy with an excellent educational system with foreign study opportunities available to qualified students.  Life expectancy and health care are the best in Africa.  Significant parts of the government are controlled by people’s committees, a form of direct democracy whose ideology of Jamahiriya was articulated by Colonel Qaddafi.  In Benghazi people have now formed additional committees to run the government in the areas of Libya no longer controlled by forces loyal to Qaddafi.

There appears to be a significant level of support for Qaddafi such that if a free and fair election were held he or one of his sons would be likely to get a significant number of votes.  The choice should be left up to the people of Libya by voting and not by military conflict.  Clearly the West has the military power to defeat any force mounted by Colonel Qaddafi.  But a victory by NATO arms, taking Qaddafi out, would not necessarily  be a victory for the people of Libya.  How democratic is it for the Transitional Council in Benghazi to demand that no Qaddafi be included in the future government of Libya?  Is this not an attempt to seize power by a group of uncertain legitimacy?  What about the interests of the people who would vote for Saif Al Qaddafi?  He has stated that the only way he could accept being a leader of Libya is if he were elected as such.  If the only role that the voters would accept for him would be to be say the minister of education such limited power should also be acceptable, if he is genuinely committed to the future of Libya.

Colonel Qaddafi accepted the terms of a ceasefire offered by the African Union.  These terms were rejected by the Transitional Council in Benghazi with a demand that any ceasefire agreement had to include the withdrawal of Qaddafi and his sons from Libya.  Based on the evidence of support for Qaddafi by a significant share of the Libyan population this demand by the Transitional Council is undemocratic. 

Perhaps the African Union should make an alternative proposal focused on free and fair elections in a defined timeframe where Saif Al Quaddafi as well as the rebels could put their popularity to the test.  Whoever the people elect should legitimately be able to hold that office.  Until a free and fair election is held the legitimacy of the self-proclaimed leaders in Benghazi is at least as questionable as that of a Qaddafi.  The West, including the US has no right to put into power people that serve their political or financial interests nor does the West have the right to remove from power any leader with popular support.

Elsewhere I have made the suggestion that Colonel Qaddafi be “kicked upstairs”, given a promotion to work for a strong African Union and give up his role in Libya.  Of all of the leaders on the Continent Qaddafi has the strongest passion to form a strong African Union.  Forming such a Union would be in the interests of the US, the EU, China and of the many states in Africa.  Without strong leadership the formation of a strong union will take much more time.  If the AU wants to resolve the crisis in Libya they could do no better than offer a leadership role that would be time defined – certainly no more than say four years after which it would be subject to election.


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