Libya’s Transition to Transition

SIRTE, LIBYA – Although Libyans are now celebrating the first anniversary of the revolution that toppled Muammar el-Qaddafi, they are increasingly frustrated with their new leaders. Libyans complain that the interim government, known as the National Transitional Council (NTC), has not moved quickly enough to purge and prosecute senior Qaddafi officials, or to rein in the militias that overthrew his regime.

Though the NTC is dedicated to implementing Libyans’ demands, it lacks the technical capacity and time necessary to do so before the elections tentatively scheduled for this coming summer. Facing such constraints, it must concentrate on a small number of important initiatives, before turning power over to an elected government.

Political experience has never been a prerequisite for NTC membership. One representative was named to the Council because he defected with his MIG fighter plane 20 years ago. Other members were previously political prisoners or exiled dissidents.

Unseasoned in the art of politics, the NTC frequently lacks the foresight needed to make critical decisions. During last year’s eight-month revolution, the NTC concentrated on overthrowing Qaddafi, gaining international recognition, and securing access to frozen Libyan assets. Those tasks left little room for attention to planning a post-Qaddafi Libya. Today, the NTC simply does not have the human resources to consolidate the transition.