The Middle East Channel

Jibril’s centrist party wins Libya’s elections

Mahmoud Jibril's centrist party emerged victorious as official results were released on Tuesday in Libya's first free national election since Muammar al-Qaddafi's regime began 42 years ago. The National Forces Alliance (NFA), led by Jibril, the former interim prime minister, took 39 out of 80 seats reserved for parties in the 200-seat national assembly. While the NFA has failed to win a majority, it took more than double the seats of its Islamist rival, the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party, which won 17 seats. The results show a break from the Islamist victories in Egypt and Tunisia. However, Jibril rejects the label of "secularist," instead describing the NFA as a moderate Islamic party. One hundred twenty seats were reserved for independent candidates who may join a coalition, but coalition building could prove to be difficult. Candidates come from various regional and tribal factions. The national assembly will name a new prime minister and will have legislative powers. Its first major challenge is deciding whether to uphold a late ruling by the National Transitional Council to hold another election for a panel to draft a new constitution or revert to the prior decision to directly name the panel.

Syria

Syrian State TV, SANA, has reported that a suicide bombing at a Damascus national security building has killed Syria's Defense Minister, Daoud Rajha, and Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, Assef Shawkat, who were attending a meeting of senior officials. The national security chief and interior minister were also reported critically injured, and it is unclear if Assad was in the building. The suspected bomber may have been a bodyguard for members of Assad's inner circle. The attack is the first assassination of a high official since the beginning of the Syrian uprising in March 2011. This is the fourth day of clashes between opposition forces and the Syrian army  near the center of Damascus. Early Wednesday morning the opposition reportedly attacked an army barracks in the western district of Dummar near the presidential palace. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights has estimated that more than 60 Syrian soldiers have been killed in the clashes in Damascus. Additionally, Turkey has reported that two Syrian brigadier generals have defected, crossing into Turkey Tuesday night. Meanwhile the United Nations Security Council is meeting on Wednesday to vote on imposing sanctions on Syria, a move that Russia has been committed to block.

Headlines  

  • An Israeli college in a West Bank settlement has won a vote to be upgraded to a university. The move has been criticized as being politically driven by Israel's Council of Higher Education.
  • Kadima walked out of the Isreali coalition government after 70 days over a dispute over a draft law.
  • A private Iranian company, Tadbir Energy Development Group, will bid on a French Refinery, showing the complexity of trade restrictions on Iran.
  • About 100 Indian workers who have been prevented from leaving Bahrain for six years due to unfinished contracts with a construction firm will be allowed to return home.

Arguments & Analysis

Libya's Defeated Islamists' (Omar Ashour, Project Syndicate)

"Nevertheless, the question remains: what happened to the Islamists? They spearheaded the opposition to Qaddafi, were advised by their Tunisian and Egyptian brethren, and larded their rhetoric with religious symbolism in a conservative Muslim country. For many, however, this was not enough. A striking difference between Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Tunisia's Ennahda, on the one hand, and Libya's Islamists on the other is the level of institutionalization and interaction with the masses. In Qaddafi's four decades in power, Libya's Islamists could not build local support networks; develop organizational structures, hierarchies, or institutions; or create a parallel system of clinics and social services, as their counterparts in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, and Jordan were able to do."

Moshe Silman's self-immolation is a national, not just a personal, tragedy' (Ami Kaufman, The Guardian)

"Silman's case clearly shows that the economic and social problems that brought hundreds of thousands of people to the streets last year remain unresolved. The gaps between rich and poor are some of the highest in the west, with 60% of the wealth being held by only 10% of the public. Indeed, it is difficult to shake the feeling that the gap between the regime and its citizens is only widening."

The Rise of Egypt's Workers' (Joel Beinin, Carnegie Endowment)

"Workers have long sought to bring change to the Egyptian system, yet the independent labor movement has only recently begun to find a nationwide voice. As Egypt's sole legal trade union organization and an arm of the state for nearly sixty years, the Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) has had a monopoly on representing workers. Though its mission is to control workers as much as it is to represent them, ETUF has been unable to prevent the militant labor dissidence that has escalated since the late 1990s. Workers were by far the largest component of the burgeoning culture of protest in the 2000s that undermined the legitimacy of the Mubarak regime."

--By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

AFP/Getty Images

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