The GNC’s independents — not Mahmoud Jibril — will determine Libya’s path

Official results from Libya’s July 7 election have trickled in, and the result is being hailed as a victory for Mahmoud Jibril (محمود جبريل), pictured above.

His National Forces Alliance (تحالف القوى الوطنية) won 39 seats among the 80 seats that were available for political parties in the General National Congress, while the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party (حزب العدالة والب) won just 17 seats.  The GNC will run Libya’s government until an elected Constituent Assembly can draft a new constitution for Libya — among its 200 members will be 120 “independents,” many of whom are unaligned with either Jibril’s coalition or the Brotherhood.

International and Libyan media immediately started to crown Jibril and the “secularists” as the winners as it became clear the NFA was leading against the Brotherhood’s candidates, but it remains unclear that Jibril’s group — which has distanced itself from the “secular” label — will necessarily control the GNC.  Jibril himself was not eligible to stand for election, so he will not actually be a member of the GNC.

Among the 120 independent candidates elected, and among the 21 members who were elected from other smaller parties, many members of the GNC will be sympathetic to a more Islamist view.  Others are already looking to strike a more nationalist third-way tone:

“We are trying to create a third way,” said Saleh Gawouda, a prominent political activist and writer who won a seat in Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi.  “The parties are trying to rally independents but until now they only met with nine or something, not big deal.”

“This new coalition will be a nationalist one,” he said.

Jibril served as the interim prime minister for a little over seven months as head of the National Transitional Council, which gained international recognition as the Libyan government from mid-2011 onward.  Jibril stepped down, as promised, upon the capture of Sirte and the killing of longtime Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.  His newly-formed National Forces Alliance is a union of liberals that have called for a civil democratic state and are proponents of moderate Islam.

But many Libyans are also wary of Jibril, who has very close ties to the United States and to Europe, and who served from 2007 until 2011 as the head of Libya’s National Economic Development Board, where he developed a close relationship with Saif al-Islam Gadaffi.  He was one of Libya’s leading proponents of privatization of state-run industries and liberalization of the Libyan marketplace to greater commercial ties with and development from the U.S. and Europe.

With militia leaders still active throughout Libya after a hard-fought civil war in 2011, Libya is not back to “normal” — and it’s not like there’s a “normal” to which Libya could return. Continue reading The GNC’s independents — not Mahmoud Jibril — will determine Libya’s path

Former Mubarak intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has died

Omar Suleiman has died at 77, while undergoing medical tests in the United States.

He will not be missed among Egypt’s revolution-minded citizens, and he will be remembered both for the human rights violations that he is alleged to have committed as Egypt’s top intelligence chief for decades.  I think most of all, he’ll be remembered for his visible role as the vice president in the last, hectic days of Hosni Mubarak’s regime.  When the end came for the regime, it was Suleiman’s glassy face we remember, hours before the military brass issued its Communiqué No. 1, bringing the curtain down.

But recall that Suleiman was disqualified — along with several other top candidates — for the presidential race.  In the wake of that decision, former Mubarak prime minister Ahmed Shafiq effectively consolidated the pro-security, pro-military sector of the electorate to place second in the first round of the presidential election on May 23 and 24, and he only narrowly lost the runoff on June 16 and 17.

Had Suleiman not been disqualified, he may well have won the voters that ultimately supported Shafiq and perhaps had a real shot at winning the Egyptian presidency.

It’s hard to imagine how Egypt’s transfer could be any bumpier than it’s been, but it’s worth pausing to note that a Suleiman victory would have been an even greater disaster.  In addition to what would have been a controversial return of the felool — ‘remnants’ — of the old regime to power, Egypt would today be dealing with the fallout of that president’s death in office just three weeks after his inauguration.

Instead, we are awaiting the appointment of Mohammed Morsi’s prime minister, and Egypt’s Administrative Court has passed on the opportunity to disrupt the work of the Constituent Assembly, the group that is drafting Egypt’s new constitution.