If the initial results are true, indicating that the bloc led by Mahmoud Jibril is leading the rival political bloc led by the Muslim Brotherhood alongside other Islamist parties; Libya will be responsible for the first surprise of the Arab Spring elections. All expectations and predictions had indicated that a belt would be established across North Africa, stretching from Egypt, across Libya, and into Tunisia, consisting of political Islamist parties, which have come to the fore in Egypt, Tunisia and likewise in Libya.
At the time of writing, nothing is conclusive; the final election results are yet to be announced. The committee responsible for the National Assembly election has issued a warning not to anticipate the outcome and make early declarations, and this is respectable and the correct stance to take. However, all indicators and evidence suggest that Libya has surprised many with the substantial success it has achieved in its first electoral test since the days of King Idris al-Sanusi’s rule.
Firstly, the high voter turnout, amounting to 60 percent of the registered electorate, indicates that ordinary Libyans have taken the decision to participate in drawing up their own future. Secondly, the electoral process was organized and most polling stations opened despite security tensions, incidents of violence and the territorial and non-territorial disputes that have surfaced in recent months. This is something that led many to place their hands on their hearts fearing the disintegration of the country’s coherence or a descent into chaos, especially with the proliferation of weapons following the dissolution of Gaddafi’s army.
Mahmoud Jibril did well to say in his Monday press conference that there would be no winner or loser in this election, rather Libya as a whole will benefit, calling for the formation of a broad and inclusive coalition government. This is a message of reassurance that the future will be one of participation, instead of one of exclusion and attempts by certain parties to monopolize the transitional process, even if they have a relative majority. For this to be achieved, the rest of the political forces must display the same level of awareness. In the future, Libya may be viewed as the best example of what has been termed the “Arab Spring”, although the change there was the bloodiest, if we exclude Syria, which is yet to achieve regime change through its popular uprising.
If true, the initial results are contrary to the expectations and the general course taken by the elections in Egypt and Tunisia, so what happened in Libya? It is likely that the Libyans had the opportunity to observe and analyze the previous two experiences and then took the decision that they did not want something similar. The Libyan electoral and political experience is taking place in unchartered territory; political groups and parties are yet to establish a presence on its soil. Most importantly, other forces – not affiliated to the political Islamist current – have been able to enter into a joint coalition under a single leadership, and this is something that the same forces had been unable to do in Egypt, for example.
If the political process goes smoothly in Libya following the election of the National Assembly – which will be the first step towards a modern Libyan state – then a promising future undoubtedly awaits the country. Recent economic indicators give a good impression about the future of the country, not to mention the ability of any forthcoming government to achieve social and economic development, the most important ingredients of success.