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Fault Lines of the Revolution

Political Actors, Camps and Conflicts in the New Libya

SWP Research Paper 2013/RP 04, 07.05.2013, 36 Pages Research Areas

Of all the states affected by the Arab Spring, Libya has experienced the deepest transformation to date. The diversity of actors emerging on the political scene is staggering. A confusing array of forces and institutional chaos are not the only reasons why external observers have trouble identifying and placing political actors in Libya. There is also a dearth of research on the political forces that emerged during the course of the revolution. The present study offers an analysis of the actors shaping events in Libya today, their interests and alliances, and the rifts that separate them.

The new Libya is deeply divided. Two opposing camps are emerging from a fragmented political landscape dominated by local actors. Representatives of forces presenting themselves as revolutionary seek root-and-branch renewal of the political and business elite to their advantage. They face a heterogeneous camp of established, moderate and conservative forces that seek to draw a line under the period of upheaval, and fear further loss of influence. This rift runs right through the General National Congress, but also between individual cities and tribes, and between different elements in the security sector. It will in all likelihood dominate the upcoming constitutional process. The question of the role of Islam contains much less potential for conflict. Another consequence of the civil war, the rise of local interest groups and the relative weakness of the central government, is likely to remain a defining feature of Libyan politics for years to come.