Sunday, November 20, 2011

Elections in Libya

As Libya continues its struggle towards democracy, how and when to conduct the elections is being debated by both the Libyan national and international communities. Elections are scheduled to be held during June of next year, but the argument has been made that it would be best if the elections were held sooner than the set June date. This would occur in order to avoid creating, or further developing, a power vacuum within the country. Critics worry that prolonging the election until June would only allow the rivaling factions already fighting within the country to become more divisive and powerful, and thus the Libyan country more volatile.
However, having the elections as early as June could prove to be detrimental to a society which has not held an election in over forty years. Furthermore, for decades the Libyan people have had all civilian attempts at political activity brutally suppressed by their government, so democratic ideas are not fully comprehended by the citizenry. The concepts of elections and political parties must be fully understood in order for them to operate effectively within the country.

This opens up the region for the efforts of international organizations like the USAID, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and the National Democratic Institute, that are working to educate Libyan citizens on the electoral process. However, the work of these NGOS is undermined by the lack of election organization made by Libya’s transition government. The Libyan Transitional National Council has yet to make substantial efforts to build an election infrastructure within the country, and has yet to organize details that are essential to an effective election, such as whether or not former officials in Ghaddaffi’s regime would be allowed to run for election.

The outcome of the elections in Libya will determine how much of a security threat it presents to the United States. If the Transitional National Council, along with voter education efforts made by NGOs, is able to effectively organize a legitimate election, the country will obviously become more stable, which will benefit not only the US, but the global community. However, if fighting between Libyan factions becomes more entrenched and an election is inadequately held (or not held at all), the effects on America’s security would be detrimental. The instability of any region undoubtedly breeds security threats, since the region becomes a breeding ground for loose arms transfers, lack of opportunities for disenchanted populations, anger and resentment, etc. Furthermore, if the country becomes more unstable, this will have destructive effects on its oil industries, which would damage not only American, but global, markets. And since the country’s debt can be attributed as one of America’s biggest national security threats, Libya has the potential to wreak havoc on American security.

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