Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Libya's transition to democracy will not be easy

The slowing down of Egypt's revolutionary process, and lack of evidence that Libyans are about to launch their own uprising, needs to be watched with care because the contagion factor in North Africa has not gone away. In Tunisia, a period of destructive rioting has given way to comparative calm and negotiations between the protagonists for political power, but unrest still rumbles on. There are those who want to establish a radical regime but, providing they do not win the day, the momentum of reform will subside and, therefore, diminish Tunisia's role as a source of encouragement for the Libyan population.

The acute anxiety over the ability of the Libyan regime to survive will weaken with the passage of time. In the medium term, however, there is every chance that the revolutionary tide will return to the region, and especially to neighbouring Egypt. What the Libyan opposition needs is the emergence of a credible leader and the creation of an efficient fund-raising organisation. This would enable the country to adopt an aggressive approach toward the Qadhafi regime. Meanwhile, the unrest in Tunisia and Egypt will create a more febrile situation and give greater assertiveness to those of an Arab nationalist persuasion.

Foreigners working in Libya will have to revert to attitudes favourable to Islam, and be aware that their words could be construed as being anti-Libyan. A Western lifestyle will be seen as being alien, and adjustment of conduct will once again become necessary. Similarly, at corporate level, prejudice against one's Libyan hosts will have to be masked to ensure it causes no offence.

Genuine problems will arise if there is a protracted struggle for political domination at which time, foreign companies should adopt a more defensive posture in Libya. In particular, they should be ever-ready, in the event of a political stalemate, to reduce their number of staff to a minimum. In Libya, as in other Maghreb states, if there is a slide towards anarchy or military control, it could come at short notice and with considerable violence.

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

© 2010 Menas Associates

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