Almost a year after the start of the uprising in Libya, which eventually led to the ouster and killing of Colonel Gaddafi, new research suggests that more than a third of Libyans would rather return to being ruled by a strongman, rather than embrace democracy.
Despite thousands of deaths in last year’s revolt against Gaddafi’s 40 year rule, less than a third of Libyans would welcome democracy, according to the research published jointly by Institute of Human Sciences at the University of Oxford and Oxford Research International.
Traditionally a tribal society, there are concerns that the vacuum created by Gaddafi’s departure late last October could lead to clashes between the various factions that toppled the former dictator. In recent weeks, medical and human rights groups have complained that the situation in some parts of country is getting out of control. At the end of last month, Médecins sans Frontières brought an abrupt halt to its operations in Misrata after being asked by officials to treat torture victims, they say, in some cases to allow the authorities to abuse victims again.
Nonetheless, today’s survey finds that in five year’s time 35 per cent would still like a strong leader or leaders for the country, although more than two thirds of Libyans say they want some say in the future governance of the oil enriched country.
“Although there appears to be a push for an early election, the population seems to be happy with the National Transitional Council [NTC],” said Christoph Sahm, the director of Oxford Research International.
“Perhaps more significantly the Libyan people have not yet developed trust towards political parties, preferring a return of one-man rule. Yet they have also resoundingly said they want a say in how their country is run, which suggests that Libyans who have had autocratic rule for decades lack the knowledge of how a democracy works and need more awareness of the alternatives to autocratic government.”
While trust in the NTC will be welcomed by its Western backers – 81 per cent of respondents to the survey say that they have faith the new administration - which helped defeat Gaddafi’s forces last year with a sustained nine-month aerial bombing campaign, more worrisome is number of people willing again to take up arms to enforce their will on the new power.
Despite this apparent optimism, 16 per cent say they were ready to resort to violence for political ends. This would mean that around 630,000 people were potential fighters, in addition to the 280,000 who took up arms last year.
With the proliferation of weapons unchecked, and sporadic fighting between various tribal factions, between themselves, and with fighters still loyal to the Gaddafi regime, there are concerns that the NTC would be unable to check growing restlessness.