By: Senussi Bsaikri
In a past conversation that has since seen difficult times, someone asked me if I was supportive of “no to extension”, where no to extension is a slogan proclaimed by those who opposed the persistence of the General National Conference as a legislative authority, as their calculation according to the durations set by the Constitutional Declaration indicate that the age of the General National Conference has expired. My response at the time was it is not important to me for the General National Conference to persist.
What is important is caution and wisdom in drawing the features of the path to transition. The condemned Conference was the result of a majority of Libyans during times of stability, since aggravation will do no good, and the pressures and inflexibility will entrench customs and traditions that will be the most prominent obstacles to democratic transition, which in turn may lead to people shying away from democracy and elections to yearn for autocracy and the rule of the military.
The National Conference was subjected to pressures. The parliament was born with limited popularity compared with those who elected the National Conference. It happened that the mistakes of the General National Conference were repeated over and over, and thus the reactions towards it were pressuring and inflexible, because those who preceded them imposed a bad, pressuring and inflexible tradition.
The financial advantages enjoyed by the members of the General National Conference, which in my opinion were one of the main reasons for the popular indignation against them, were repeated with larger amounts. There were also all types of violations, travels, appointments of relatives in important positions internally and abroad, in addition to chaos in policies and decisions. The parliament repeated, to a greater extent, the mistakes of the National Conference.
There was an abundance of conflict among intellectual and political movements, conflicting positions among members, and absenteeism from sessions. If the conflict was one of the main reasons for the weakness or paralysis of the Conference, it is also one of the main reasons for parliament’s paralysis. The Islamic movement, in the viewpoint of a majority, constituted the demon that hijacked the Conference and hijacked the country after it. However, the reality did not chance and the performance did not improve in the parliament that was devoid of Islamists, where elements of the liberal and regional movements prevailed.
The experience of transition from the National Conference to Parliament proved that many reasons for toppling the first were weak, and that the problem was not merely in the performance of the National Conference, but rather in the overwhelming elitist movement. This movement lacked a real assessment of the reasons for the problems and prompted change without realizing that the change will be for the worst because the elite simply did not truly realize their political, social and security reality and got involved in irresponsible positions and practices on the pretext of the democratic right to opposition. They believed that the removal of a specific political movement from the scene will achieve transition, build the state and help the country recover from the difficult circumstances it went through.
The features of the repeated scenario of failure included resignations of many members. I reviewed the request for advice by a prominent member of parliament to his friends on FB on whether he should resign from parliament or proceed. This question during the phase of parliament’s establishment by a prominent person reflects mystification after belief and confusion after persistence that we witnessed in positions and statements in the first months of parliament’s launch. Presenting the issue to public opinion will only increase the public’s confusion and exasperate the deteriorating confidence in the democratic choice, thus clouding over the Libyan reality.
One of the most important results of the political path from the National Conference to Parliament is the failure – or thwarting – of the new democratic experience in Libya. In case this is achieved it will push towards more aggravation. Libya is not Egypt where the army is in control and monopolizing actual power, so that there is optimism that stability can be imposed by force. In Libya, the army is too weak to impose stability. The experience of the Karama operation is the best proof of what we are saying. Therefore, the behavior that leads to disabling the democratic path enhances the option of fighting and opens the door for ideologically, political, regionally, tribally and ethnically fundamentalist groups to impose their will be force, as we see today in the east, west and south. Notice that whenever there is a regression in the presence of the elected authority the non-institutional attitudes fill the vacuum.
However, the commitment to the democratic option has its own time and healthy climate to be effective. Therefore, calling for third parliamentary elections cannot be the way for pulling the country out of its crisis, which is not possible due to the security reasons and the people’s reluctance. The result will be – in view of the severe polarization and the confusion of the public opinion – a worse legislative body compared with the Conference and parliamentary. Therefore, the exceptional alternative is “consensus democracy”, i.e. agreement by the general majority on specific options that would stop the bloodshed, achieve stability and guarantee the continuation of the transition, until the circumstances allow for elections which will be the deciding point.