Panel 3g. After the liberation: the process of state (trans)formation in Libya

Chair: Irene Costantini

The economic dimension of the state formation process in Libya
Irene Costantini, University of Trento

The overthrow of the Qadhafi regime and the liberation of Libya was welcomed as a new beginning for the country. This enthusiasm, shared by Libyans and the international community alike, spreads equally to the economic domain. Reflecting this widespread enthusiasm, the IMF noted in 2012 that “Libya’s popular revolution of 2011 has unleashed the potential for more diverse and inclusive growth”. Contrary to expectations, the Libyan transition soon derailed. The economy has emerged as one of the conflicting issues in the Libyan transition, and economic dynamics have contributed to redesign the power struggle between entrenched groups in the transition. By investigating the dynamics that have occurred during the first three years of transition this paper questions the extent and the manner in which the limited internationally-led intervention in Libya has affected the economic transformation of the country and the “topography of power” that emerged in relation to economic dynamics. By recognising the importance of tracing processes in historical and comparative terms, the paper makes reference to the case of Iraq to analyse continuity and change in International Financial Institutions’ agenda as well as the positioning of domestic economic actors in the transition. In addressing these issues the paper provides an overview of the prevailing economic dynamics in the country and problematises them in relation to the state formation process.

The Road to the Libyan Constitution Drafting Assembly
Felix-Anselm van Lier, University of Oxford

After the revolution of 2011, Libyan politicians were confronted with the task of building a new Libyan state. The establishment of a constitutional order was one of the cornerstones of the transformation of the country from a dictatorship into a democratic state. This paper traces the process of the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011 to the setting up of the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) in 2014, which is responsible for drafting a new constitution. The description of the processes which led to the CDA’s establishment will reveal the “politics of procedure”, namely the centrality of procedural arrangements for securing political power and influence in the constitution-drafting process. I seek to explain how various segments of Libya’s society influenced political decisions which might potentially forestall certain constitutional choices. I will also shed light on a number of key debates which emerged during the transitional phase, as well as the challenges, which the drafters of Libya’s new constitution are facing in their constitution-making task. Scholarship dealing with questions regarding constitution-making processes has largely remained normative in its outlook and lacks detailed empirical insights. This paper mainly draws on data gathered during in-depth ethnographic fieldwork in Libya between March and July 2015. Such an ethnographic approach will uncover the the multiple political, legal, historical and social layers of the Libyan constitution-making process and explain how the constitution will be the result of a messy and contingent process of negotiation and mutual adjustment.

State, society and statebuilding in Libya
Jean-Louis Romanet Perroux, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy

The Libyan uprising toppled one of the most brutal and totalitarian regimes among Arab countries. The hollow state institutions of Gadhafi’s Jamahiriya, the fracturing of society and the substitution of a national identity with a cult of Gadhafi’s eccentric figure and philosophy left a poisonous legacy for any nation and state-building endeavor. Despite these challenges, in the aftermaths of the uprising in September 2011 Libya experienced an unprecedented sense of unity, an eerie level of security despite the lawlessness and a new expressions of civic engagement. Thousands of civil society organizations and dozens of media outlets mushroomed and the country made some key steps in the direction of a democratic transition. However, violence increasingly muted politics and curtailed the public space, culminating in widespread conflicts and insecurity since the spring of 2014. This article argues that above all, politics failed Libya and that in spite of the many challenges the country faces, the root cause rests at the level of the national political culture. In light of this premise, this paper will examine who, between formal state institutions and civil society can be a more promising agent of change, transforming Libya’s political system from a charismatic totalitarian regime to a modern and democratic state. This research build on empirical evidence gathered through dozens of semi-structured interviews of key informants and on the survey of 1024 CSOs in six major Libyan cities.

On the Border Zones of History: Nationhood, Statehood and the Civil Society of the Italiani di Libia (1939-1970)
Sherine El Taraboulsi, University of Oxford

The historical diversity of the civil society landscape in Libya remains untrodden in analysis. Using that diversity as a lens to explore contested identities and civic presence of the Italiani di Libia and through the narratives of 20 Italians born in Libya, this paper has a two-pronged focus: First, to identify the different types of civil society organizations that existed in Libya starting with the Second World War and until the Gaddafi coup in 1969, followed a year later by the expulsion of the “Italian” population from Libya and the expropriation of their property. Second, to explore key turning points in the period between 1939 and 1970; mainly: 1948, 1956, 1967, and in each of those points, understand how massive changes that took place within the regional socio-political realm manifested itself within civil society. The paper concludes that fragmentation of the overall civil society landscape in Libya among Italians, Jews, Arabs, and Berbers was a direct manifestation of and contributor to a fragmented Libyan state and nationhood which the Italiani di Libia were acutely aware of and their narratives testify to.

Tribes and democratization/de-democratization in Libya
Kumru F. Toktamis, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn NY

While the fractured, fragmented and tribal qualities of Libyan society and political history seems to be anything but impediment for the likelihood of democratization and even state-formation, from a theoretical standpoint such qualities may also become facilitating resources contingent upon development of conditions and processes of small scale consultations, citizen-state bargainings,  and enlargement of public politics. The basic democracy-promoting mechanisms can be interdependent and roughly similar to state-formation processes of establishing institutional and administrative uniformity, creating nominally representative national legislature, subordinating and monopolizing means of violence and nationalizing social provisions and redistribution. While the restoration of Libya as a national state is desirable within the global and regional context, it is not unlikely that such process may trigger democratization as much as it may lead to de-democratization.  Following the blueprints of the theoretical models of state-formation and democratization by Charles Tilly, this paper explores the conditions and processes of “broadening, equalization and protecting of mutually binding consultations” in Libya which may create the necessary institutions of a single, unitary, fair state, and mechanisms for citizenry to negotiate with that centralized power. A process-oriented approach to democracy enables us to discover possibilities of expansion of participation to local and national decision-making bodies within this unlikely process of state formation amidst tribal conflicts over resources and power in Libya.

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