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: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' Raw: Ukraine's Donetsk Residents Flee A Young Victim's Premonition, Hug Before MH17 U.N. School in Gaza Hit by Israeli Strike Raw: MH17 Victim's Bodies Arrive in Netherlands Raw: UN School Used As Shelter Hit by Tank Shell Raw: Gunmen Attack Iraqi Prison Convoy Plane Leaves Ukraine With More Crash Victims Gaza Fighting Rages Amid Cease-Fire Efforts Raw: Families Travel to Taiwan Plane Crash Site Today in History for July 24th Migrants Back in Honduras After US Deports Raw: ISS Cargo Ship Launches in Kazakhstan Bodies of MH17 Victims Arrive in the Netherlands US, UN Push Shuttle Diplomacy in Mideast Plane Crashes in Taiwan, Dozens Feared Dead Raw: Rescue Workers at Taiwan Plane Crash Site Raw: Mourners Gather As MH17 Bodies Transported Robot Parking Valet Creates Stress-free Travel
NDN Video
Bill Murray Continues To Be Just Bill Murray By Eating Some Free Bill Murray Ice Cream Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl