Muslim Brotherhood Strongest Contender in Libya's Coming Elections
by FRANKLIN LAMB
It appears, from interviews and discussions with a wide range of Libyans including students, lawyers, judges at the Ministry of Justice, shopkeepers and casual acquaintances that the Muslim Brotherhood currently has very little popular support among this pious conservative, Sunni Muslim society. Widely expressed opinion is along these lines: "The Brotherhood is different from how Libyans view Islam," and "They represent outsiders and interference in our country", "Our revolution was not about replacing one autocratic regime with another."
That said, the Muslim Brotherhood is odds-on favorite to win the June elections, in the view of many observers here in Libya.
The reason the MB is in such a relatively strong position is that is has the support of Qatar, assistance from the well-established MB organizations in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, and Turkey. The flights arriving in Tripoli from Egypt are always full and some of the passengers are MB operatives according to Professor "Dr. Ali", a pro-Gadhafi political scientist who has so far managed to keep his teaching post.
The MB is far more organized, well-funded and is working today in the neighborhoods of Libya's main cities recruiting members and campaign organizers, while trying to keep a low profile. They have asked members to shave their beards, talk about clean government, avoid arguments, and remind anxious Libyans that "Libya is not Afghanistan" and all we want is security, domestic peace and no foreign interference.
Nonetheless, a new edict issued by General Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood organization in Egypt, Dr. Mohammad Badih, in which he writes about the possibility of his movement imposing an Islamic Caliphate in accordance with the principles laid out by the Muslim Brotherhood founder, Imam Hassan al-Banna, created wide controversy in political circles in Libya just as it did in Egypt.
The US, UK and France are currently just watching and guessing at developments, according to the Ambassador from one southern African country. The US State Department is believed even by some National Transition Council officials, lawyers and Judges, (who I met with during two days of meetings this week at the Libyan Ministry of Justice inquiring about certain individuals in NTC and Militia custody,) to be unsure what the US policy should be because they have mixed feelings about the MB. Some US officials are reported to believe that an unstoppable Muslim Brotherhood arc or crescent is quickly jelling across the Maghreb, as it grows also in Turkey and that the MB will dominate in Syria when and if the Assad government is toppled.
The potential utility for Washington of the MB does not end there. Some in Congress and the Obama administration, as well as the Zionist lobby in and outside of Congress, hope that after all the failures of the US administration to spark a Sunni-Shia war, that the MB might just be the best and unexpected weapon in achieving this goal which has been US policy since the late 1980s.
These forces are said also to hope that after achieving a substantial share of the next government of Syria, the MB will quickly build itself up in Lebanon, and give the Sunni community strong effective leadership that has been lacking the past nearly seven years following the assassination of PM Rafiq Hariri, and take on Shia Hezbollah.
In short, NATO countries may sit on their hands regarding the coming elections, drop the current attachment to NTC officials who have only have six months left in office anyhow, and let the MB control Libya's next government.
The MB in Libya is actually quite good on the issues that are increasingly concerning potential voters as the latter learn how to vote and participate in political parties, which have been outlawed since 1972 when Revolutionary Committees were established to make legislative and administrative decisions.
Those issues are many and include, but are not limited to the following:
-- Lack of security due to the militias being viewed as increasingly aggressive with the public and fighting among themselves, as they did this week;
--growing rumors and even evidence of corruption. One example being that there is still not enough money in the Central Bank of Libya to supply local banks around the country. It's an issue that is expected to explode here once the facts become known. During the uprising this summer, the Gadhafi government limited bank deposit withdrawals to 500 dinars per month (about $475). The new "government" has raised it to 750 dinars per month and it is not enough, given approximately 18 per cent rise in prices since this summer when the Gadhafi government enforced anti-gouging rules. Those rules are no longer being enforced and prices continue to rise.