Unless last minute surprises, which seems more and more possible, Libya will hold parliamentary and
presidential elections on December 24.
The country has been in transition since the end of Gaddafi era in 2011. From dictatorship to a semi-
democratic process ended with a civil war, Libya is now trying to restart its own democratization aiming
to have finally peace and stability. But as every transition it cannot be done in a rush. Democratization
takes long time, and many efforts, at local and international level, to tackle the political, economic and
social empowerment and capacity building needed to make a transition sustainable and lasting.
The almost one-year life of the Government of National Unity, guided by Mr Dbeiba, a businessman-
turned-politician, former associate of Gadhafi, shows the good will of Libya to be on the right track. But
things could have got bad quickly after Presidential elections given the judicial and political
controversies surrounding the eligibility of candidates, that allowed divisional leaders like Gaddafi son
and Haftar to run for presidency.
But what is the path that Libya should take after elections, when these problems of candidacies will be
solved, and the elections will be taken, even if not completely free and fair but at least in its best way?
The first thing that Libya has to think to will be a new Constitutional construct, that clarify the divisions
of powers, the administrative and political structure of the country, defining the principles upon which
the state will be based and the procedures in which laws will be made. In all countries of the world this
is the ABC of democracy and state building.
Second, territorial integrity and political unity of Libya should be maintained at all costs. Giving
autonomy to some regions, with a federation or confederation, will allow to keep the unity of the
country and at the same time allow for decentralization of power and recognition of differences. The
risk of separation in two parts has to be avoided, not only for the war that often require to do that but
secessions are not beneficial to anyone, given the difficulty to give economic rights besides political
rights from scratch by a new state building, as South Sudan and other cases docet.
As third step, it will be fundamental that after elections the winner in a way or another will include the
actors that didn’t win, in some form of power sharing or consociational government that would avoid
the risk of majoritarianism, exclusion and so a new internal conflict. Already we saw the experience of
Egypt how it ended.
A consociational government in fact would allow the major internal divisions, along ethnic, political and
social lines of Libya, to be controlled and remain stable due to consultation among the elites of these
groups. Furthermore, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica would remain together in a united country. But, as said,
this will require also a new statal structure, a political consensus maybe on a federation, or anyways
some form of autonomy to the different regions, in order to guarantee the survival of the power-sharing arrangements, the sustainability of a democratic republic, and avoid the risk of split of the country.
It will be important also to have a united Libyan army, and this will have to pass from uniting different
armed groups, making Security Sector Reforms and processes of Demobilization Disarmament and
Reintegration of militias, training also the new army with the support of regional organization, first of all African Union, that has been quite absent in helping the stabilization of Libya.
Also, Libya will have to be cleared of foreign forces, currently in the country, from Turkey, UAE, Russia
etc. There is no sustainable democratization without the control of the monopoly of force by a sovereign state, which has to be guaranteed by a legitimate government and a national army under civilian authority, without external interferences.
Finally, Libya is not only a place where there are problems of terrorism, migration or energy disruption,
how has often been considered at international level. These are issues that are very important for the
regional stability so the new government should deal with them, but to think only about that is a narrow perspective.
Libya should be considered for what it is: an important country geopolitically, politically and
socially, with great potentialities and opportunities not only risks and threats, for all the North African
and the Mediterranean region.
The region changed beyond recognition in the last 20 years. After the failure of the Arab Springs, with
the following proxy wars, the regional fragmentation has reached an unprecedent degree. The
emergence and multiplication of non-state actors, the regional arms race and geopolitical competition
among global and regional powers, the mass migrations, the technological disruptions of new weapons
and the current crisis of climate change and of Covid-19, have raised the instability and complexity of
the region to unprecedent levels. Therefore, a stable, prosperous and democratic Libya would be a
cornerstone, together with Tunisia and Egypt, to create that bridge between the European continent
and the African one, that will be more and more interrelated, for good or for bad, along this century.