Libya has long road to stable democracy after Gadhafi's overthrow

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According to multiple news sources Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi will fall. Last week’s military action in Tripoli revived many people’s faith in the rise of a new Libyan democracy. I, however, am not one of those people. Libya still has a long way to go before it even comes close to achieving a functioning democracy.

Despite the end to Gadhafi’s tumultuous 42-year regime, it is foolish to assume that the necessary pieces of a new government will fall into place. Successfully toppling a dictatorship does not equate to dismantling it. As the problems arising between Sudan and the newly formed South Sudan show, forming a new government from the ground up is no easy task. Libya’s societal attitudes, bureaucratic processes, and economic infrastructures all have to undergo drastic changes. It is true that bringing Gadhafi to justice and ending his regime were big steps (and bigger accomplishments) in the grand scheme of democratizing Libya, but harder work is just beginning.

To prevent Libya from slipping into total anarchy, the rebel forces need to work with citizens in laying the groundwork for a new era of government. This will undoubtedly be the most difficult part of democratizarion; it is easy to unite under a common enemy, but it is hard to unite under common laws and values. Libya is home to a large number of ethnic demographics as well as tribal groups. Each faction of the population may have its own ideas about how to best form a new nation. The fighting between dictator and rebels may have ended, but the fighting between citizens is about to begin. Unifying the diverse population of Libya should be the topmost priority in the coming months, if not years.

Libyans are in a particularly perilous situation. Gadhafi built very few modern state institutions during his regime. His dictatorship tore apart any sense of political processes, such as competing parties or any body of government that checks power. Without proper government institutions it will be difficult for the transitional government to create effective infrastructures and political bodies. There seems to be only one solid course of action for Libyans: building something from nothing. This could make or break Libya; a blank slate could aid the creation of a new government and economy, or it could become an obstacle in the path to a functioning state.

Another issue that any new Libyan democracy will face is basic security and a sense of protection. Through the NATO military actions and rebel attacks, Libya has become a war-torn country. Looters and gunmen roam city streets and dead bodies pile up, especially in areas of high action. In Tripoli, for example, there are a myriad of rebel checkpoints and vigilante groups defending their neighborhoods. Without a sense of stability and security in the nation, convincing citizens — as well as foreign investors — to have faith in the country will be a difficult feat. The transitional government needs to gain control of its country and put an end to the chaos running rampant in the streets.

As I have stated many times, Libya has a lot to deal with before it can find any sort of stable ground. Bringing down Gadhafi was definitely an achievement worth celebrating, but there are still large obstacles this nation must face. Unifying the citizens, building a completely new government from scratch, and bringing stability to a warring nation are not going to be easy tasks. I suspect it will be a long time before the world sees Libya as a functioning, stable state.