Preliminary voting results favouring party candidates under the liberal coalition National Forces Alliance, led by the first interim prime minister, Mahmood Jibril, and election of local nonparty-affiliated candidates, many of whom are former political prisoners under Gaddafi, point to the possibility of an open and lively constitutional process, much as occurred in South Africa.
The fundamental questions facing Libya are no different from the ones revolutions have grappled with at least since the French Revolution of 1789: how to uphold the defence of property while pursuing universal rights; how to balance individual rights with those of the wider community; and how to achieve outcomes consonant with democratic ideals without resorting to means replicating the sins of the old order, which is what happened initially when the dictatorship of Napoleon replaced that which had prevailed for centuries of monarchy.
Today’s Libyans are surely more capable of establishing self-government than the French were in 1789, but their cause is too important to the rest of the Arab region, Africa and the rest of the world to be done in isolation. The West provided critically needed military support but it was strictly limited and so should its role be in any democratic transition.
South Africans, however, have one of the world’s most admired constitutions, which emerged out of a deliberative process and which Libyans may well wish to emulate.
Article written by John Stremlau, vice-president in charge of peace programmes at the Carter Centre in Atlanta, US, who led the centre’s international election observation mission to Libya.
(Source: Business Day)