Wednesday, April 25, 2012

No Islamists Allowed. The Underground is This Way...

Libya's National Transitional Council issued a law today banning political parties based on "religious, regional, or tribal platforms, and outlaws foreign funding."

Rightfully, Islamist groups think that this measure was specifically targeted against them.

My feelings are that these types of measures are counter-productive and harmful in the long term.  It might be satisfying, from a Western perspective, to know that in the upcoming elections there will be no Islamist or Salafist parties running for office (as happened in Egypt).  But, that doesn't mean that Islamists don't exist.  In fact, by denying Islamist parties a voice in parliament, they are forced instead to go underground and search for alternative means to get their message across.  And there you have it: conflict.  The short term satisfaction of no Islamists in government leads to the long term consequences of an underground, suppressed, and probably anti-government Islamist movement-- because if they weren't anti-government before, they surely are now.

Egypt's next elections will prove my point.  If the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists do not satisfy the Egyptians expectations by the time of the next election, they will be voted out of office.  It was no surprise when they were recently elected: they were well organized (thanks to their semi-underground status) and presented an alternative vision for Egypt.  Logistically and organizationally, nobody else was in a position to be voted into power.  That won't, however, be the case in the next round of elections: other parties will have had the chance to organize, form a strategy, and present a case to the Egyptian people.  This upcoming presidential election is another story.  Stay tuned for developments to come-- as dictated by the ruling military council.

The ban in Libya is not only on Islamist parties, though.  It also bans parties based on region or tribe.  Basically, this is to prevent the decentralized, federalist structure that some Benghazis want.  Again, by suppressing that voice, the NTC is sowing the seeds of future conflict.

One cannot have a functioning democracy with an un-democratic structure.  An oligarchy in democratic clothing might be in fashion, but I'm hoping that, much like bell-bottoms, we'll look back on this as just a silly fad.

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