Book offers clues to Libyan politics after Gadhafi

Oct. 14, 2011 at 3:52 PM
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LONDON, Oct. 14 (UPI) -- NATO decision-makers hoping to forge a democratic and stable Libya after the fall of Moammar Gadhafi need to read "Political Alienation in Libya," a new book analyzing the North African country shortly before the disastrous showdown that triggered the U.N.-mandated European intervention.

Political alienation was so widespread in Libya under Gadhafi that the outcome since the NATO bombing campaign began, the gradual crumbling of the strongman's regime and the emergence of the National Transitional Council are hardly surprising, the book says.

Author Mabroka al-Werfalli, who teaches political science at the University of Garyounis in Benghazi, used different polling methods against heavy odds to gather opinions in Libya under Gadhafi.

She found public participation in Gadhafi's Basic Popular Congresses, the regional and town-based political cells used by the regime to advance its aims, declined sharply as public alienation grew.

Even those who took part in the congresses' activities did so out of fear of losing favor with Gadhafi's political elite.

"From the findings it is clear that political alienation, defined as the conscious rejection of the whole political system, is the prevailing condition in Libyan society," al-Werfalli writes.

In the run-up to Gadhafi's downfall, she found through surveys that feelings of alienation were widespread among Libyans because of authoritarian control, marginalization of citizens and institutions of political participation, and a destructive censoring of opinions and attitudes.

In her book, al-Werfalli offers insight into the political mindset of the Libyan people in the lead up to the protests and the resulting civil war.

The resulting apathy was not evidence of loyalty but of estrangement. The methods adopted by citizens to express their resentment under coercion included not only retreat from the political processes but also silent resistance.

The book concludes with the final stages of Gadhafi's rule and outlines not only the government's slide from legitimacy but also its last-ditch attempts for survival and reform under Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam.

"Saif al-Islam outlined plans for Libya to move from autocratic rule to a constitutional democracy as part of the country's modernization process," writes al-Werfalli. "He emerges as the only actor who has managed to criticize the malfunctions of the regime without being punished" by his father.

In the aftermath of Gadhafi's crackdown on popular uprisings, Saif al-Islam is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity against the Libyan people, including torture and killing of civilians.

Unconfirmed rebel reports claim Gadhafi is being protected by a loyalist tribe and Saif al-Islam is holding out in Sirte, one of the last strongholds of his regime.

The NTC leadership that succeeded Gadhafi is facing criticism that it has used tactics familiar to victims of Gadhafi and calls to reform its ranks to suit democratic ideals expected of its leadership.

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