Libya’s worst political crisis since the 2011 revolution “is precisely the time for greater engagement….not only with Libya’s beleaguered government but also with its increasingly assertive civil society,” says a prominent analyst.
After armed militias recently laid siege to government ministries, the authorities capitulated and passed the controversial Political Isolation law that would bar former officials of the Gaddafi regime from government jobs.
“‘A slow-motion coup’ was how one Libyan described the standoff to me,” Carnegie analyst Frederic Wehrey writes for The Washington Post.
“In nearly every crisis in Libya since 2011, civil society has helped pull the country back from the brink,” he notes:
Last Friday, thousands of Libyans marched toward the besieged Foreign Ministry to confront the armed militias. Those I spoke with said they were marching for the principles of due process and democracy. True, many disagreed with the government, its corruption and its inefficiency. But their signs and banners bore witness to the idea that changes in government should come through legal, peaceful means, not by armed intimidation. By late Friday evening, the militias had fled; by Saturday night, the ministries had returned to business.
But civil society alone cannot succeed against the enormous challenges facing this country. Most crucially, the “political isolation law” is polarizing society and impeding progress on many fronts. …The law’s passage by force set a dangerous template for armed intimidation that other disgruntled factions could try to emulate.