Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Libyan government shaken by events in Tunisia

The Libyan government was shaken by the overthrow of Tunisia's President Zine Al-Abedine Ben Ali, on 15th January. Despite the fact that the violence came from the security forces against largely peaceful demonstrations, Colonel Qadhafi took an implacable stance against the rioters and claimed that the bloodshed brought on by the unrest was unjustified.

If he continues to develop this theme, he could find himself in confrontation with a democratic and more nationalistic neighbour. It is unlikely that he would intervene by supporting the disgraced Tunisian secret service factions. Thereby setting in motion a long-term problem in Tripoli's relations with its closest neighbour.

So far, there is no firm news that refugees are spilling over the border into Libya but a protracted period of instability could bring about a flood of Tunisians. The Libyan regime has considerable ability to back either of the Tunisian factions because both armaments and finance are directly available across the long and permeable land border.

In recent days, the Leader appears to have realigned his support towards the more radical of the protesting groups in Tunisia, perhaps attempting once again to encourage a form of People's Committee system as operated in Libya. This will earn him few sympathisers outside his inner circle, and add to the ambivalence in which he is held by the Arab world.

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

© 2010 Menas Associates

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