By Ben Hernandez, Jr.
Naturally, our different media outlets have been inundated with the rebel uprising in Libya this past week—a steady flow of video footage and images—soldiers reveling in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi with celebratory firing of automatic rifles and still captures of rebels donning the pretentious headwear of their eccentric former leader after storming his compound. Furthermore, there are the brave journalists who put themselves in harm’s way to bring us the sights and sounds of the transpiring events in Tripoli. One element we might not be directly exposed to is the collective of individuals meeting and deciding what the course of the nation’s future will be after freeing themselves from the 42-year stranglehold of the Gaddafi regime.
Earlier this week, the National Transitional Council (NTC), which was established to amalgamate rebellion efforts, released a template of a proposed constitution that could be the guiding charter as Libya enters the initial stages of a post-Gaddafi era. Apparently, the new constitution is predicated on Islamic Sharia Law. The initial portion of the constitution states, “Libya is an independent democratic state wherein the people are the source of authorities. The city of Tripoli shall be the capital of the state. Islam is the religion of the state and the principal source of legislation is Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia). Arabic is its official language while preserving the linguistic and cultural rights of all components of the Libyan society. The state shall guarantee for non-Muslims the freedom of practicing religious rights and shall guarantee respect for their systems of personal status.”
Obviously, the NTC is well versed in one of the pillars of democratic structure—implementing a generalist perspective. When the uprising was instigated in February, the rebel offensive consisted of various factions that were able to rally around a singular objective. Thus far, the success of the rebels have been their ability to collaborate under the unifying theme of removing Gaddafi and associated persons from power. Now, as Libya seeks to establish a new polity, the NTC plans to keep the rebels homogenous with the new constitution.
By using Sharia as a starting foundation of the new constitution, the NTC may be attempting to minimize any potential conflicts that could emerge if particularistic viewpoints serve as the basis for the constitution. The actual law might raise a few conservative eyebrows, but by using a generalized approach, the NTC hopes to curb political dissention among the rebels. Nevertheless, will this generalist perspective to democracy actually work? John Bolton, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, stated on Fox News “the rebels themselves are very internally divided. We know there are some who do believe in democracy, a pluralistic society. But there are plenty of others who believe the exact opposite. And the balance of power within the rebel council is not known at this point.”
Unfortunately, using a generalist perspective is not an elixir that guarantees stability in a democratic government. While the battlegrounds for the rebellion have already materialized, there is the other battleground that must be addressed—the political one. At its simplest form, a democratic government provides an arena for competing views to clash and hopefully, reach some form of resolution. Can Libya come to terms with this new form of government after 42 years of domineering rule?
In addition, to successfully transition to a balanced government espoused in democratic structure, Libya will also have to implement the other four pillars in addition to a generalist perspective—multiple reviews of policy, constrained time horizons, citizen participation, and consensus decision making. Of course, that is much more difficult than it sounds because implementing all five elements of democratic structure is not a universal fix in establishing a sound government. For now, we see Libyan citizens drunk with glee, but once the celebration is over, will the situation turn fractious? Analogous to Iraq and the ousting of Saddam Hussein, will chaos be an unfortunate byproduct of the fall of Gaddafi? United Nations officials know that overthrowing Gaddafi is only the beginning of what could be a prolonged struggle centered on a transitional government in Libya
Source: Cox III, R. W., Buck, S.J., Morgan, B. (2011). Chapter 10: Organization Theory as a Problem of Democracy. In E. Stano & E. Alimena (Eds.), Public Administration in Theory and Practice (page 186). Pearson Education Inc.