Brian Whitaker writes:
Take a look on Google and you’ll find more than 1,500 news items combining the words “Libya” and “stalemate”. Repeating the search for Syria and “stalemate” reveals a mere 109 items, and for Yemen only 73.
This is rather strange, because the Yemeni and Syrian uprisings – unlike that in Libya – are both obvious examples of a state of stalemate. In Yemen and Syria, the regimes have no prospect of restoring the status quo, but at the same time it’s difficult to see how their opponents can decisively gain the upper hand.
That has never really been the case in Libya, despite many articles predicting that stalemate would occur, and others treating it as an established fact. Once Nato intervened and the National Transitional Council (NTC) began winning international recognition, the writing was on the wall for Gaddafi.
It has turned into a drawn-out struggle and Gaddafi’s forces have had successes as well as failures along the way, but the overall direction has always been clear: the regime’s opponents have been getting stronger while the regime itself, under multiple pressures, has been steadily weakening. There is also no realistic possibility now that Gaddafi can reverse this trend.
Commenting on the “Draft Constitutional Charter” issued by the Libyan National Transitional Council, Whitaker writes:
As might be expected, it contains things that would appeal to a variety of different elements. Parts of it have been copied from Gaddafi’s 1969 constitution, and it is interesting to compare the two documents to see what has been included and what has been omitted. For example, the Arab and pan-Arab nationalism has gone. Libya is no longer described as an Arab state, though Arabic will remain as the official language “while preserving the linguistic and cultural rights of all components of the Libyan society”. This is a major step towards de-marginalising the Amazigh (Berbers).
Article 1 says “Islam is the religion of the state”. Undesirable as this may be in terms of separating religion from the state, it leaves the Gaddafi constitution unchanged – and the same applies in most other Arab countries.
The new part is that it also says Islamic jurisprudence (sharia) will be “the principal source of legislation”. This form of words is also used in the Egyptian constitution and it’s something that Islamists are obviously keen on.
It adds that non-Muslims will be allowed to practise their religion and, as in Egypt and several other Arab countries, it talks of different personal status laws for different religions (which has proved very problematic in practice).
Other parts of the document talk about democracy, a multi-party system, equal rights, freedom of expression, independence of the judiciary, etc. Women will have the right to participate “entirely and actively in political, economic and social spheres”.
Taken as a whole, the document has quite a lot of good points. But so too did Gaddafi’s 1969 constitution. The real test comes later, in the application.