Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Reformist Trend and Old Guard Battle for Libya’s Future | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- Supporters of Libya’s reformist trend, which is affiliated with Saif al-Islam Al-Gaddafi, second son of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Al-Gaddafi, are waging a fierce political and media battle against the hardliners in the Revolutionary Committees and influential security agencies.

There is growing uncertainty about the political future of Saif-al-Islam Al-Gaddafi, while his brothers are becoming noticeably more active in political and security circles. Saif-al-Islam Al-Gaddafi’s grip is loosening although until very recently he was one of the most prominent candidates to succeed his father in view of his wide international relations and his successes in addressing the most complicated domestic issues to the extent that he rehabilitated Libya to return to the international arena as a major regional player. Meanwhile, the political stock of his brothers, notably Al-Saadi and al- Moatassem, is rising.

Al-Saadi, one of Col Al-Gaddafi’s sons, was recently promoted to the rank of brigadier general. He announced, in his capacity as chairman of the board of directors, the establishment of the first free zone in Libya to develop the Zuwwarah-Ra’s Jadir area. This was his first official appearance apart from his public appearances in soccer games of which he is an ardent player. He said that the law on the establishment of the free zone received the approval of his father, the support of his brother, Saif-al-Islam, as well as the agreement of the Basic Popular Congresses.

For his part, al- Moatassem Al-Gaddafi, who holds the post of Libyan national security adviser, wields major domestic influence in the daily affairs of the Libyan government, although he rarely makes statements to the media.

As talk of a struggle between the Libyan old guard and the reformists, Saif-al-Islam, who holds no official post in the Libyan state, does not approve of this traditional classification. He had earlier told the Asharq Al-Awsat that in Libya “there is no such thing as old guards or new guards; there are individuals who are opposed to the reform process and these have been overtaken by events.”

Those who wagered on Saif-al-Islam Al-Gaddafi’s reforms were shocked after he announced that he did not desire to return to public life to exercise his normal role, demanding for playing the role of creating an appropriate political environment.

Libyan human rights organizations and political activists have complained to the Asharq Al-Awsat that access to certain independent Libyan websites and the video-sharing YouTube has been blocked and that internet users in Libya are unable to log in to these websites as usual. The Libyan authorities have not issued any official explanation for this unexpected step. Some people are of the view that blocking those websites is related to a retreat in the reform project that engineer Saif-al-Islam Al-Gaddafi adopts.

Muhammad Latyush, director of the Al-Manara website, said that his and other websites have been blocked since 24 January. Fayiz Suwayri, chief editor of the Libya Al-Yawm website, which has also been blocked, said that in the absence of any official decision issued by a particular party to explain this step, the Libyan government remains accused until proved otherwise. He said that the Libyan Telecommunications Company, which provides internet services, should explain the matter and should not remain silent because silence convicts it.

The blocking of these websites has triggered a furor in the Libyan street after Libyan human rights organizations criticized this measure. Libyan activists launched a protest campaign in Facebook demanding that the Libyan authorities stop blocking these websites.

Latyush pointed out that the blocking of websites has no doubt reduced entry and interaction with his website, which he regards as a news website specialized in Libyan affairs and which is far from the grip of the Libyan government. He said that the party that issued the decision to block these websites has not identified itself, but it is quite clear that such decisions can only be made by higher influential parties in the Libyan government, as he put it. He added: “There are indications that the decision to block websites coincided with the suspension of the Oea and Quryna newspapers, which are affiliated with Saif-al-Islam Al-Gaddafi,” noting that there are speculations about a retreat in the reform process which Col Al-Gaddafi’s son, Saif-al-Islam, endorsees.

According to leaks from Libya, it is possible, Latyush said, that this retreat in the reform process is due to the pressure being applied by the old guard, who sees that its interests will be threatened if Libya continues on the path of reform adopted by Al-Gaddafi’s son. This is true, he said, despite reports that understandings were reached between the influential revolutionary trend in the Libyan government and Saif-al-Islam Al-Gaddafi when everyone, including members of the Revolutionary Committees, popular leaderships, various sectors of the state, and youths, gave their blessings to the proposal [by Libyan leader Al-Gaddafi] for Saif-al-Islam to assume an official post in the Libyan state.

However, the failure to discuss Libyan Leader Muammar Al-Gaddafi’s request for finding a post for his son at the latest meetings of the Libyan parliament has led to the suspension of Oea and Quryna newspapers. In addition, no broad reshuffle has been made in the government of Prime Minister Dr Al-Baghdadi al-Mahamudi. Latyush said that all these developments indicate a state of confusion and hesitation about going ahead with the reform project orchestrated by Saif-al-Islam Al-Gaddafi. He added: “This shows the magnitude of the real crisis within the Libyan regime and the ongoing struggle between the revolutionary trend or the old guard and the reformist trend.” He said: “It seems that Col Al-Gaddafi has so far taken the side of the revolutionary trend or the old guard.”