March 13, 2014
Mezran on Why Libya Matters
The Friends of Libya conference held last week in Rome did little to change the international approach to Libya but served as an opportunity to rebuild focus on a country hamstrung by numerous challenges.
Two and a half years after Qaddafi’s ouster, Libya still does not have a new constitution while the elections for the new constituent assembly proved inconclusive because of low turnout (around 15 percent of eligible voters), boycotts from minorities, and growing insecurity. Meanwhile, the legitimacy of the two main institutions is continuously questioned: Prime Minister Zeidan is recurrently the object of attempts to overthrow him, either by parliamentary vote or by force, and his control over the country’s security and bureaucracy is tenuous at best; the General National Congress (GNC) was due to end its mandate on 7 February. Elections were promised “as soon as possible” under popular pressure, but it is not clear whether they could be effectively held given the security situation.
Spiraling insecurity and economic crises exacerbate the situation. A mix between militias’ swagger, economic and ethnic grievances, and centrifugal forces has de facto stopped Libyan oil production since last summer. Given Libya’s reliance on energy revenues, it is no wonder that the economy is in shambles. On top of this, more and more Libyans are disaffected with democracy and supportive of attempts to establish one-man rule.