Sub-national identities are politically relevant in many Asian and African countries, irrespective to their political system. The vote tends to be guided by clanic, ethnic, religious or regional identities, and political parties are organized along primordial loyalties. Identity politics is invoked to justify ingrained power relations or, for those groups who are discriminated against and excluded from economic and political power, to further their interests.
Besides the jihadist tide interesting most of the African countries, besides the typical difficulties of a nation that after 40 years of dictatorial regime and a ruinous civil war has to face a rebuilding of the state, another impossible combination of factors seems to paralyze the new Libya.
The purpose of implementing a democratic order in a rentier country, where Islam is the dominant religion and, at the same time, the main source of popular identity, risks to remain unsatisfied for a long time.
According to UN DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) Libya is a country with a population of at least 6,355 million (2010) . Around 2,3 million are under the age of 18. This means roughly 4,1 million potential voters (excluding several Libyans living abroad who are also eligible to vote). Based on the UN DESA figures the 2,865,937 registered voters are only about 70% of all the potential voters. According to initial statements of the High Election Commission finally 1,805,540 people voted (= 44% following the UN DESA figures).
By any measure, the last 16 months have been extraordinary in Libya, and by the time this commentary is issued, they will have held their first real elections since the early 1960's when all the candidates had to run as independents. Unlike the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, Libya's required a protracted and bloody civil war between Gheddafi loyalists and the rest of the country, the interventions of the UN and NATO, and the military involvement of several nations.
On February 2011 Foreign Affairs published an article entitled "Libya's Terra Incognita" underlying that Libya will face the difficult task of repairing a society long traumatized by the Middle East's most Orwellian regime. Libya lacked both legitimate formal institutions and a functioning civil society. The new, post-Qaddafi era, therefore, is likely to be marked by the emergence of long-suppressed domestic groups jostling for supremacy in what is sure to be a chaotic political scene. Today, this incognita can't be solved.
The unexpected end of the Qhadafi’s regime achieved in October 2011 leaves many unanswered questions. During the six months of war which preceded the collapse of the regime, the National Transitional Council and the rebels were able to reconcile their differences in order to hunt Qhadafi’s power. Will they be able to maintain that unity and, above all, will they be able to face the numerous challenges of post-Qhadafi Libya? Otherwise, the price to be paid for the new Libya could be way too high, even for the most optimist analysts.
Italian government, as other European countries, was surprised by the first upheavals of Arab Spring. Italy and Libya have enjoyed a privileged relationship for the last forty years. After the decision of military intervention, preoccupied by the risk of geopolitical marginalization, Italy gradually started to adopt a bandwagoning policy. Libya’s present difficult transition maybe provides a new opportunity for Europe to be a key players in the country. Italy would profit from greater involvement in the stabilization of the country.
Libya’s road to democracy is paved with obstacles. This wannabe-democracy has to deal not only with the lack of political institutions, state security organizations and police forces but also with the potential emergence of Islamic fundamentalists out of the chaos. However, there are many signals that permit us to be optimistic about Libya’s future. In particular, a key role in Libya’s democratization will be played by Usa and Europe, at the expenses of the other African countries, China and Russia.