SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

The World

February 22, 2011

Arab world mainstay's power suddenly at risk

CAIRO — For more than four decades, Moammar Gadhafi was the face of Libya. He withstood international isolation and U.S. airstrikes, managing to claw his way back to a degree of acceptance by the global community.

Now, the ultimate survivor is confronted by the biggest threat to his rule from a popular rebellion.

The anti-government battles that have reportedly left more than 200 people dead in the past week will indelibly alter Libya's political landscape. If Gadhafi is toppled, like the leaders of neighboring Egypt and Tunisia, the lack of a clear institutional system in Libya thanks to the very system he set up, and the absence of any kind of established opposition bloc, leaves open the question of who could fill the vacuum.

Egypt and Tunisia had well-established — but corruption-plagued — governing institutions that allowed for a smoother transition and rebuilding of the nation.

Not so in Libya, where Gadhafi holds no official role in government. The so-called "jamahiriya" system that he set up is designed to give the appearance of a government, with a series of People's Committees and People's Congresses.

In reality, it's a system with the sole purpose of ensuring that power stays in the hands of the Arab world's longest-serving leader.

While former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "was playing tennis in Sharm el-Sheik, Gadhafi ... spent his time building up his power base," said Jon Marks, a Libya expert with London-based Cross-border Information.

"Every time you look at the different strands of Libyan society ... you see that there's one puppetmaster, and it's Gadhafi," he said.

Gadhafi turns 69 sometime this year — the month and day of his birth in 1942 is uncertain — and he came to power in a coup that ousted King Idris in 1969. One of the foundations of the revolution was a rejection of communism and capitalism — shunning anything linked to Libya's colonial history, and a determination to chart his own course.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
The World

AP Video
Raw: Pope Greets Easter Tourists on Popemobile Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Today in History for April 18th Mayor Rob Ford Launches Re-election Campaign Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez Dead at 87 Crew Criticized Over Handling of Ferry Disaster Agreement Reached to Calm Ukraine Tensions Raw: Pope Francis Performs Pre-easter Ritual Raw: Bulgarian Monastery Dyes 5000 Easter Eggs
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday