Attacking Elections: Counterintuitive or the Right Move?

A recent New York times article written by David D. Kirkpatrick sheds further light on the difficulties of setting up a stable government in the chaos affecting Libya over recent months. Specifically, this article describes an incident that occurred over the past weekend where several hundred armed protestors attacked the election commission offices in Benghazi and Tobruk due to the method in which the government was planning to divide seats for an upcoming election for a constituent assembly. The protestors looted the offices and carried signs designating the leader of the interim government a traitor to the nation for making too few seats in the election available to the region of Cyrenaica.

In my most recent post, I discussed some of the hazards of the current inefficiency of the transitional government of Libya, specifically the dangers of the unregulated stockpiles of weapons scattered around civilian areas. Unfortunately, incidents like these attacks on the election commission offices, whether justified or not, are delaying the transition into a more stable form of government that could control the rogue militias plaguing the regions of Libya and reaping death and destruction in their wake. This, combined with constant infighting and attacks on diplomatic officials trying to help solve the problem, makes it painfully clear that the inefficient transitional government will not be replaced with a more stable one at any time in the near future.

Of course, this leads to the question of how these types of problems can be solved. The most obvious reason for the events discussed by this article was the lack of security at the election commission offices in both Benghazi and Tobruk. Typically, the answer would be to turn to the government to solve the problem, but in this case the transitional government is unstable and arguably the source of the problem. As such, the answer would seem to be international pressure and international regulation of the elections until a more stable government comes into power. That said, this still leaves the question of who will step up to perform this role and how this role can be carried out in light of the lack of faith in international efforts already in the area.

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