Are the Parliamentary Elections a Precursor for More Violence?
The electoral commission finally announced the results of the winners of individual seats in the June 25 poll a day late and at a time when as clashes for control of Tripoli airport take place. Liberal factions appear to be the big winners, unlike the former General National Congress (GNC) which was dominated by Islamists. Benghazi Deputy Younes Fannouch estimated that the Islamists have not won more than 30 seats. He also added that he believes the Liberal factions won 50 seats and the Cyrenaican Federalists garnered 25 seats. Twelve of the 200 seats have not been attributed as the vote in certain polling stations was annulled due to suspected electoral fraud. The remaining 80 seats will go to independents, who Fannouch claims are “opposed to Islamic politics”. The list of successful candidates, along with their photograph, is available on this spreadsheet. The conflict around the Airport has not ceased, with the death toll climbing to 50 after the first week.
The implications of this election can make an already complex situation worse. A defeat in the parliamentary election and the relocation of the only legislative authority in the country to Benghazi will likely lead to stronger coordination and unity between the Islamist militias in Benghazi and Misruata to undermine the NFA-Federalist alliance. If this situation were to unfold, the house of parliament would likely become as inactive as its predecessor, the General National Congress, since the Islamist militias will leverage every opportunity to challenge the government with force and violence. Simply put, the Islamist militias will not allow any political or military faction to undercut their capability to coerce the weakened government to pay salaries and benefits to its members.
As the consolidation process takes place under the Islamist and Nationalist ideologies, only 2 possible scenarios can end this vicious cycle of violence. The simpler situation would be to negotiate a grand bargain between the major political factions. Complicating this option, however, is the need to balance the needs of the militias and the public’s willingness to appease the militias, which will be crucial for the democratic process. The other alternative is to sway the balance of military power in the favor of the more popular Nationalist forces. Although this is a much bloodier and time-consuming process, it may ultimately be the only way to break the stalemate on the ground between two rigid forces.