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Definitions of Power, Political Power

Gaddafi dead, but what does it say about political power?

 As politics students we can highlight a number of key aspects of legitimacy surrounding the death of Gaddafi and the Libya experience:

  1. Once G had lost international recognition and support he was as good as finished.
  2. His brutality and coercion came back to haunt him (even though he lasted 42 years).
  3. General instability and the collapse of regimes in the region put him under pressure to reform or die.
  4. The collective action of the international bodies such as UN & NATO were decisive as was their recognition of the oppostion as the legitimate government.
  5. But the new regime faces a legitimacy challenge – reining in different military groups and limiting rivalries between potentially competing interests and allegiances, including Islamists, moderates and those who want to see a secular state. A heterogeneous society can, if not dealt with effectively cause long term instability and legitimacy issues. Don’t expect to see calm in Libya for a long time yet. The experience of Iraq & even Northern Ireland teaches us this.
  6. To develop a new legitimacy the new regime will need two major successes:
    1. democratic elections; free; contested and outcomes accepted – this may lead to some form of consociational democracy.
    2. economic advancement – restructuring will take a lot of money and people will only accept a new regime if they and there children have full stomachs -empty stomachs = a legitimacy crisis due to a failure to deliver the great ‘hopes’ of the new nation.

The excerpt below is from the BBC (adapted):

Libya’s leader of 42 years Col Muammar Gaddafi has been killed in his home town of Sirte by forces who have been trying to topple him since February, with the backing of Western and Arab nations.

Why did people want to oust Col Gaddafi?

  • He ruled Libya with an iron fist since he seized power in a 1969 coup.
  • Students were forced to study his political theories, as set out in his Green Book.
  • Political parties were banned and his critics imprisoned, tortured and on some occasions killed.
  • After the overthrow of the leaders of Libya’s neighbours, Tunisia and Egypt, some Libyans staged protests in February to demand change. But Col Gaddafi’s government used overwhelming force against the demonstrators in Tripoli and then started to move on the second city, Benghazi, where the rebels had seized control.

Why did other countries intervene?

It was feared that an assault on Benghazi, a city of a million people, would be brutal. The Arab League asked the United Nations to intervene to protect the civilians in Benghazi. In March, the UN Security Council passed a resolution which authorised “all necessary measures” – except troops on the ground – to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians. Nato planes, not UN, then started bombing government forces, who retreated from the outskirts of Benghazi.

So was Nato backing the opposition?

Nato officials strongly deny that they acted as the “opposition’s air force” or even that they had direct contact with them. However, reporters noted that pro-Gaddafi forces in front of rebel positions would often be bombed, making the advance of the opposition National Transitional Council (NTC) fighters much easier. Since Tripoli fell in August, the UK has confirmed that Nato was providing “intelligence and reconnaissance” to help the NTC track down Col Gaddafi. Earlier, the French admitted giving weapons to the rebels, while other countries have provided training and logistical support to the NTC, who are mostly civilians. Both Western and Arab leaders openly said they wanted Col Gaddafi to go and recognised the opposition as the government of Libya giving them legitimacy.

What happens now?

The NTC said that when Col Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte fell, as it has, it would declare Libya fully “liberated”. It would then name a new government within a month, while the transitional authority would resign. But it faces a challenge reining in different military groups and limiting rivalries between potentially competing interests and allegiances, including Islamists, moderates and those who want to see a secular state. Without the unifying goal of ousting Col Gaddafi, there are fears that interim authorities could start arguing among themselves. The NTC wants a national congress elected within eight months, and multi-party elections in 2013. Meanwhile, the new rulers have to try to improve the lives of ordinary Libyans and avoid the post-revolution disillusionment seen in Egypt and Tunisia. To do this they will need money.

Where will the funds come from?

The rebels’ National Transitional Council’s (NTC) says it is seeking $2.5bn (£1.5bn) in immediate aid. An estimated $53bn of assets were frozen during the conflict – but it can take time for them to be unfrozen. A UN sanctions committee has agreed to release $500m of frozen assets to humanitarian agencies. The Arab League, however, has now given its full backing to the NTC, which may lead to more countries offering aid.

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