THE WORLD IN WORDS
TRIPOLI – ” We certainly did not expect the results, but… our future is certainly better than our present and our past,” said Sami al- Saadi, the former ideologue of the Libyan Islam
ic Fighting Group and the founder of the political party al- Umma al- Wasat, which finished third in Central Tripoli during Libyas recent parliamentary election.
The man whom Taliban leader Mullah Omar once called the ” Sheikh of the Arabs,” and who authored the LIFGs antidemocracy manifesto The Choice is Theirs, accepted the apparent victory of Libyas more liberal forces.
Indeed, the results raised eyebrows, even of those analysts who did not expect an Islamist landslide. In the electoral district that includes Derna, commonly viewed as an Islamist stronghold, the liberal- leaning National Forces Coalition ( NFC), a grouping of more than 60 parties and hundreds of local civil- society organizations, won 59,769 votes, while the Justice and Construction Party ( JCP) of the Muslim Brothers ( MB) received only 8,619. The liberal- leaning Central National Trend ( CNT) finished third, with 4,962 votes.
In the impoverished western district of Abu Selim, where many Islamists are seen as local heroes due to their sacrifices under Colonel Muammar Gaddafis regime, the NFC swept the field with 60,052 votes, defeating all six Islamist parties, which received a combined total of less than 15,000 votes. Overall, liberal- leaning parties finished first in 11 of Libyas 13 electoral districts, with the NFC winning ten and the CNT taking one.
To be sure, the results will affect only 80 of the 200 seats in the constituent assembly, whose mandate is to appoint a prime minister, government, and a committee to draft the constitution. The other 120 seats are assigned to individual candidates, who are likely to be local notables, independents with strong tribal affiliations, and, to a lesser extent, a mix of Islamist and liberal politicians.
Moreover, while the Islamists were soundly defeated, they performed quite well in many districts. Across Libya, they took second place in ten districts ( the JCP in nine and the Salafi- leaning Originality Coalition in one). In Misrata, the JCP finished second, after the local Union for Homeland Party, but still managed to win almost three times as many votes as the NFC, which came in fourth.
Nevertheless, the question remains: What happened to the Islamists? They spearheaded the opposition to Gaddafi, were advised by their Tunisian and Egyptian brethren, and larded their rhetoric with religious symbolism in a conservative Muslim country. For many, however, this was not enough.
A striking difference between Egypts Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisias Ennahda, on the one hand, and Libyas Islamists on the other is the level of institutionalization and interaction with the masses. In Gaddafis four decades in power, Libyas Islamists could not build local support networks; develop organizational structures, hierarchies, or institutions; or create a parallel system of clinics and social services, as their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan were able to do.
As a result, Libyas Islamists could not unite in a coalition as large as that of Mahmoud Jibril, the former prime minister under the National Transitional Council, who heads the NFC. Instead, their votes were divided between several parties, six of which are significant.
But another reason for the strong ” liberal” turnout is the ” blood” factor. ” I am not giving my familys votes to the MB. Two of my cousins died because of them,” Mohamed Abdul Hakim, a voter from Benghazi, told me. He agrees that Islam should be the source for legislation, and his wife wears a niqab. Nonetheless, he voted liberal: his cousins were killed in a confrontation in the 1990alt39 s, most likely between the Martyrs Movement ( a small jihadist group operating in his neighborhood at the time) and Gaddafis forces.
But many average Libyans, including Hakim, do n
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