Misrata Residents Force Local Elections

Rival militias control various territories and the US-backed interim government has no overarching control

Libyans in Misrata voted in new elections on Monday after four months of corruption and criminality from the self-appointed city council that came to power just after the killing of former leader Muammar Gadhafi.

Frustrated Misrata residents had staged sit-ins outside the council steps and forced a vote. The vote was the country’s first act of democracy, which has been held back and suppressed by the inept interim authorities and nation-wide instability.

But it was also an illustration of how fractured Libya is, splintering into largely autonomous city-states and controlled by a number of thuggish tribal militias.

Rival militias have battled each other for territorial control and harassed ordinary people throughout the country, while the National Transitional Council has failed to assert any control. A growing distaste for the rule of the NTC has led to concerns about a burgeoning civil war. Last week, some 100 militias in Western Libya announced they would form a new federation and vowed not to lay down their arms to the NTC.

Aid groups recently suspended operations in Libya after finding evidence of widespread torture and human rights violations by both the NTC and the militias. Militias, some in fact tied directly to the NTC, commit massive theft as well.

Even if a continuation of the civil war is staved off and elections take place in various territories throughout the country, peace and democracy are a long way off. Although the Obama administration tried to take credit for the regime change in Libya back when democracy was heralded by the media, they refuse to take credit for it now that chaos is taking place.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.