As of January of 2014, the primary legislative authority in Libya is the Council of Deputies, which has struggled to maintain order as internal conflict ensues between nationalists and Islamist. Corruption has become a political norm and the country lacks the necessary institutions to govern itself. The negative ramifications of widespread neopatrimonialism during the Gaddafi regime have come to the surface since the end of the civil war in 2011. Despite a democratically-elected government in power, neopatrimonialism continues to play a role in Libyan politics, which is evident by the government’s ties to certain rebel groups. A weak central government and ongoing domestic chaos has hindered Libya’s ability to create effective foreign policy and establish alliances since the end of the Gaddafi regime.
Libya epitomizes the adverse effects that neo patrimonialism can have on a country. Authoritarian dictator, Muammar Gaddafi, was infamous for misusing government resources to bolster his personal wealth and acquire political support. In “Political Culture, State Elites and Regional Security in West Africa”, Taylor and Williams explain that personalized exchange and clientelism have become so customary that they are now ‘essential operating codes for politics in West Africa’. These ‘essential operating codes for politics’ are especially prevalent in Libya, as well. Corruption and self-betterment among high-ranking officials is so deeply embedded into the Libyan government that neopatrimonialism in current political institutions is inevitable.
Similar to countries in West Africa, Libya has never established a bureaucratic institution that can delegate and govern effectively. The most apparent example of Libya’s political immaturity is the government’s current usage of militias. Since the end of the civil war, the government has been unable to demobilize militias, and yet, it relies on them to maintain order in the absence of a military. Militias are on the state payroll and have attained a considerable amount of power within the Libyan government. The government spent nearly £1 billion on the militias in 2012. Individuals on the upper end of the political spectrum have contracted with certain rebel groups whose goals align with their own, rather than creating domestic institutions like a police force and an effective military. As Williams and Taylor put it, neopatrimonialism breeds resentment, which perfectly portrays the current political situation in Libya. The government’s patron-client-like relationship with militias and reliance on them to create security has just exacerbated internal, ethnic and tribal discord.
Libya has been in the process of reestablishing foreign relations and its place on the international level since the end of the civil war. Several countries aided Libya in ousting Gaddafi and have played a role in its transition to democracy but ongoing chaos is raising concerns in the international community. The UK, U.S. and France have publically expressed concern for the politically-motivated assassinations, tribal clashes and protests that are currently taking place in Libya. Throughout 2013, Libya’s south was a closed military region due to tribal tension and human and drug trafficking with Chad and Algeria, further hindering the country’s ability to establish effective international relationships. In response to the country’s current instability, Turkey, the US, UK and France have announced that they plan to train more than 8,000 soldiers to be merged into Libya’s army and police forces.
Neopatrimonialism continues to be an issue for many African countries, including Libya, because power has always been personalized and never properly institutionalized. Libya was subject to an autocratic regime for nearly half of a century, which has left it without the political institutions to govern its people and transition to democracy. It’s inability to maintain order domestically makes it impossible to create effective international relations and a foreign policy agenda. Libya has the potential be extremely influential internationally with its abundance of oil and access to the Mediterranean Sea. However, domestic conflict between armed groups has halted Libya’s progress of being recognized as a democracy in the international community. A drastic change of the political culture in Libya is necessary to create stability at home. A legitimate governing body that prioritizes democracy and operates independently of influential individuals will be imperative in regaining control within its borders. Only then, will Libya be able to create a foreign policy agenda and reintroduce itself to the world as a legitimate and stable state.
BBC News. Libya Profile. 6 August 2014. Accessed on 24 September 2014 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-13754897
Ian Taylor and Paul Williams. “Political culture, state elites and regional security in West Africa”. 12 June 2008. Journal of Contemporary African Studies.
Paul, Johnny. “Corruption in Libya continues to breed post-Gaddafi”. The Libyan Intelligence Group. http://libyaintelligence.org/content/single-rodent-many-corruption-libya-continues-breed-post-gaddafi
Libya Human Rights Watch. World Report 2014. Accessed on 25 September 2014 http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/libya