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For Libya elections, more questions than answers

For Libya elections, more questions than answers

Libya will face a laundry list of challenges following its national elections, originally set for June 19, which were postponed to July 7. They key issue, said American-Libyan Council president Fadel Lamen at a panel discussion hosted by the Project on Middle East Democracy on Tuesday, is a lack of central power:

"One of the most important things about Libya is that the revolution started at a very local level, and that is the root of how we should look at the country. The country, no matter how many layers there are at the top level, is still run by local elections."

Though Lamen emphasized the importance of a partnership between the central and local levels, it is unclear whether local militias, which have been responsible for a number of recent attacks, will cooperated. As Manal Omar, director of the Iraq, Iran, and North Africa program at the United States Institute for Peace, explained:

"Even as institutions do begin to grow over the next year, these groups have tasted power. They’re going to have little incentive — even once they are reassured — to give it up."

Omar added that she anticipates the civil society sector will experience a post-election contraction:

"A lot of institutions that we’ve seen may actually dissolve because their heads are going to become government leaders."

While it is guaranteed that issues such as arms and economics will dominate Libya’s post-election conversation, POMED director Stephen McInerney said the atmosphere surrounding the elections themselves is one of general and genuine confusion, citing a lack of reliable public opinion polling, single non-transferrable voting,  and unorganized political parties unaware of campaigning rules.

"In terms of the political process, there’s a lot of confusion regarding the electoral system."

Legislative elections in Egypt and Tunisia may have produced a Muslim Brotherhood majority, and it’s clear that Libya is headed in the same direction, but hopefully the poster child for armed resistance will come out of elections with an effective government.