Reform in Libya: Chimera or Reality?
Libya’s rehabilitation in the international community has been accompanied by a growing debate within the regime about the need for reform. Much of this debate has been spearheaded by Colonel Qadhafi’s son Saif al-Islam, although Qadhafi himself has repeatedly spoken of the need for change in order for Libya to meet the challenges of the 21st century. To date Libya has taken a number of tentative steps down the path of reform and has announced a series of reform measures, including a shake up of the public sector and the privatization of the banking sector. However, many of these announced plans have yet to be realized and there is still a strong resistance to change among certain parts of the regime. Moreover Colonel Qadhafi is still giving contradictory signals about the reform agenda, and the administration is still mired in chaos and uncertainty. As such, in spite of some changes, meaningful political and economic reform would still appear to be somewhat elusive.
This paper lays out the current reform debates being played out within Libya. It examines the competing currents within the regime, as well as the inherent constraints to change that are present within Libya’s Jamahiriyah system. It analyzes and explores changes both implemented so far and expected in the future, and assesses whether these are genuine attempts at reform or simply window dressing aimed at regime survival. The paper also examines the significance of the reform debate for the country’s political and economic future, and assesses the extent to which this debate will have an impact on the wider region and on Libya’s foreign relations.