The Libyan Elections

The long-awaited elections for the Libyan Constituent Assembly have ended. In both Europe and the USA there has been unanimous satisfaction. The dictatorship has been overthrown by local opposition forces, Libya has created the conditions for the development of democracy, the Constituent Assembly elections have taken place without problems in a climate of renewed calm, and Libya’s wealth, above all its oil, will finally be the property of the people and not the old tyrant. In fact, things are not going along the lines suggested by the international media.

First of all the elections were the inevitable outcome of the war unleashed by NATO. France, Britain and the USA who, by arming and legitimising the Transitional Government have created the conditions for the outcome of the electoral contest to favour a government structure and the re-establishment of a constitution which will facilitate their “entry” into the Libyan oil market and a new political scenario in their favour. In this regard Western efforts have favoured Jibril, the current President of the Provisional Government and steps have been taken to marginalise the forces of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Party of Justice and Development of Mohammed Sarwan with the trick [suggested by US Intelligence] of reserving to the party only 80 out of 200 seats leaving the “independents” less linked to the official organisations of jihadists, salafists, and the Brotherhood, the remaining 120.

That the long-awaited elections have taken place in a climate of calm is a colossal lie. The day before the polls opened 50 deaths were recorded. The National Transitional Council (CNT) called up 3000 soldiers in addition to the 40,000 security guards. Despite this enormous deployment of force, dozens of polling stations in Cyrenaica were burned down. Many lorries transporting voting slips were halted and destroyed with their electoral contents. In Benghazi someone was killed in a polling station and episodes of violence, brawls, and physical pressure, which UN observers quickly became unable to prevent, have been countless. Furthermore the participation rate seems false. Some independent observers maintain that real figure is less than the stated 60% and someone, perhaps exaggerating, claimed that only 10% of the voters managed to get to the polls either through political choice or through fear, or simply because they were physically prevented from doing so.

The so-called Ghadaffians, in other words those belonging to the defeated bourgeois faction, have tended to boycott the election in every way, including by use of force. In Cyrenaica, where the heaviest clashes and the highest tension have been recorded autonomists who want to control “their” oil talk of a federal Libya like that in 1951 and in the name of their leader, Hamed al Mussi, stated that they considered the result of the electoral farce as void. In the south, in the Fezzan, and in the rest of the Libyan desert, other autonomous forces headed by Omar Mukhtar made a bid for the oil wells of the region. It’s no accident that the CNT turned off the taps of the oil pipelines reducing the amount of oil the pipelines carried to 300,000 barrels a day. Also in the South, the Tuareg, who were the backbone of Ghadaffi’s special forces, have taken refuge in Mali and from there intend to return in order to conquer the oilfields of Southern Libya.

The real question which is caught up in this election lies in the geopolitical set up of the new Libya, in its oil, in the management of its wells, in the control of the pipeline network which reaches the shores of the Mediterranean from the South. Also playing in the game of development of the “democratic” framework is the Emir of Qatar, Hamid al Thani, who through the good offices of Sheikh Ali Sallabi and ex-commandant Hakim Belhadj, in his time a follower of Al Qaeda and then military commander of Tripoli, organised and mobilised the Libyan Islamists. This has led to friction with the official structure of the Cyrenaican Muslim Brotherhood who follow the political line of the Egyptian Brotherhood, except on economics. Externally, i.e. the imperialist front that sought the end of the old regime, the new “democratic” Libya produced by “free” elections has to guarantee the redistribution of oil concessions according to the new map of power. Abdulsalem Jallud and his former service chief Moussa Koussa are amongst the most important pawns here. Jallud, the former regime’s number 2, political leader of the most important Libyan tribal confederation, the Magharia, fled to London a few weeks before the end of the war. Once he obtained political immunity from the British for a series of crimes, he cultivated a network of political relations between Libya and Europe and will be amongst the leading actors in defining the new balance of Libyan oil concessions. The second, Moussa Koussa took himself to Saudi Arabia and he is the one who keeps good relations with ENI (the Italian oil firm), with the Saudis themselves, and anyone ready to pay for his mediation. Then there is the enormous pressure of France, Britain and the US on the Jibril Government to get to the head of the queue for oil redistribution. All of them have to deal with internal tribal tensions, with the marginal fringes of the bourgeois fragments who want at least some crumbs from oil revenues, not forgetting the strong secessionist demands of Cyrenaica and the Fezzan.

In this new “democratic” scenario there is no place for the needs of the world of labour and it couldn’t be otherwise. For peasants, for proletarians and for state employees, who did badly under Ghadaffi, things are even worse now. The old regime had established a sort of equilibrium both at home and abroad on the basis of agreements and alliances now being reshuffled by the new regime over oil, oil revenue and the role of the “new” Libya on the North African chess board. France is getting a privileged position and Russia is out. NATO will take over the patrol of the Gulf of Sirte. Russia is increasingly out of the Middle East game. So much so that it won’t move an inch on the butchery of the Syrian civil war. After the Libya elections we see a lot of things going on both the domestic and international fronts but nothing to benefit proletarian interests. Moreover if a class perspective based on a clear revolutionary and internationalist strategy in the area where the “Arab Spring” has shown itself is missing, the tribal components (i.e. bourgeois factions struggling for the exploitation of the oilwells, for control of the pipelines and the management of water resources) and the even heavier pressure of Western imperialism, are destined to impose their laws. These involve war, and the struggle over oil revenues, profits from reconstruction and strategic control of the area. This is the only solution imperialism offers in the Libyan situation. And in the wider scenario of the global crisis without even a hint of a revival of class struggle in the advanced capitalist areas the music will change little: speculation, increased exploitation, higher taxes and cuts in public expenditure, double digit unemployment, alarming levels of poverty and the prospect an abyss of social desperation which seems to be bottomless. And we should not forget the spectre of war which remains the last resort in solving the problems of the international crisis.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012