2021年10月22日 星期五

The Daily: The future of Libya

A former dictator's son is running for office. Can he win?

By Lauren Jackson

Welcome to the weekend. In this newsletter, we try to answer the question from the end of today's Daily episode: Will Libya be ruled by another Qaddafi? Then, our team shares some reading and listening recommendations.

A reminder: We're in the early phases of launching a new iOS app in the U.S., and we want your thoughts on it. Visit nytimes.com/audio for more information.

The Big Idea: Will Libya be ruled by another Qaddafi?

The Daily strives to reveal a new idea in every episode. Below, we go deeper on one from our show this week.


Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, the second son of Libya's deposed longtime dictator, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, in 2011. He has recently re-emerged after 10 years, touting his political ambitions.Ammar El-Darwish/Reuters

Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi was missing a thumb, dressed in a gown with gold fringes and hiding in a lavish home high in the hills of northwest Libya. This was how we found the son of the former Libyan dictator Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, who is hinting at a run for president in the country's upcoming elections.

For nearly a decade, Seif has been a ghost. An alumnus of the London School of Economics and former regular on the Davos circuit, he once spoke of reforming his father's regime. Then the Arab Spring came, and Seif instead joined the Qaddafi government's brutal crackdown on the Libyan uprising. Soon after, he was captured by a rebel group and spent the following years in a kind of cave, cut off from the outside world.


As you heard on today's show, he's now back, with political dynasty still on his mind. But can he win? We asked experts about his political viability and whether the elections could change anything in Libya.

An unlikely candidacy

Since the revolution, Libya has experienced a "period of profound instability and chaos," Alessia Melcangi, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, said. The country has buckled under foreign intervention, militia violence, economic chaos, an ongoing migration crisis and a civil war that has fractured control of Libya into disparate centers of power.

"Any time you've suffered this kind of divisive civil war, people naturally look for a strong leader," Francis Fukuyama, an author and political scientist, said. But could another Qaddafi become that leader?

"I think it's highly unlikely," Tim Eaton, a senior research fellow at Chatham House, said. Tarek Megerisi, a senior fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, agreed: "I think it's massively overblown."


While both concede that Seif benefits from name recognition and a sense of nostalgia, especially among younger Libyans who don't remember the Qaddafi dictatorship, they also point to a critical challenge: his difficulty in leaving the house safely. "It's kind of hard to be president of a country," Tarek said, "when you can't do anything with the public."

In addition to threats on his life by political rivals, Seif faces an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court and "fragmented support" from the country's Green Movement, a constituency he is relying on, Tim said.

But they also question whether the problem with finding a consensus candidate runs deeper than Seif's campaign.

The path forward for Libya

Tarek calls the upcoming elections a "Hail Mary shot that a few internationals believe is worth trying, whereby they can just hold elections in the country and it will kind of heal the divisions he will have." He added, "I don't think that's a realistic dream."

The country's interim government is struggling to force out foreign fighters who have backed disparate sides of the Libyan conflict. And the elections, backed by the United Nations, face disputes over candidate eligibility, and the legal and constitutional basis of the balloting system. Additionally, experts say the elections will probably fail to address two key issues: the allocation of resources, including wealth from oil and gas, and a fractured national identity.

"I don't see a path forward to overcoming the big identity splits that have really been the basis of the instability ever since the fall of Qaddafi," Francis said. He added that while a power-sharing arrangement could help stabilize the country, ongoing conflict was more likely because "these groups really feel that they've been in a zero-sum struggle with one another."

The expected outcome of the elections? More of the same. "I think there will be a series of disputes over the process of the parliamentary and presidential elections, which will then lead to an impasse," Tim said.

"Working on Libya for a long time, you feel a bit like you live in that movie 'Groundhog Day,' " Tarek added.

For your playlists

The seasons are (sadly) turning and, unless you're a lucky Australian, most of us are going to be very inside for the next couple of months. Here are some listening recommendations from our narrated articles team to get you through.

Black moviegoers outside a theater in Chicago, 1941.Photograph by Russell Lee. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives, LC-USF34–038814-D.

"Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World": Wil Haygood tells the story of Black filmmakers in his ninth book. He has written biographies of influential Black Americans including Thurgood Marshall and Sammy Davis Jr., but he shows no signs of lethargy.

Dwight Garner, the author and narrator of this article, writes that while many prolific nonfiction writers grow bleary, Haygood "has become a master craftsman."

"State of Terror": The former secretary of state Hillary Clinton published her first novel, teaming up with Louise Penny, an established novelist.

The plot is ambitious: Ellen Adams, a former proprietor of an international media empire, is improbably appointed the American secretary of state. The story starts when a bomb goes off in London, another in Paris and a third in Frankfurt. And so begins a high-speed diplomatic race.

This book comes on the heels of "The President's Daughter," the second joint effort between former President Bill Clinton and the writer James Patterson. Sarah Lyall, a writer at large for The Times, concludes that while perhaps there is nothing inherently competitive about celebrity spouses pairing with established novelists within a few months of each other, "I'm going to award the prize of Best Clinton Thriller of 2021 to Hillary."

"Succession": The third season of the HBO series received a seal of approval from The Times's chief television critic, James Poniewozik, who called it "scabrously funny."

While the show "is superficially in the same genre as 'Dynasty,' 'Dallas' and other bygone soaps about the unhappy superrich," James writes, it differs in key ways because "being rich is nothing like it used to be."

"The Velvet Underground": The director Todd Haynes has "never met a genre he couldn't deconstruct," according to The Times's A.O. Scott. In this documentary, Haynes doesn't just want you to listen to the reminiscences of band members and those around them, he wants viewers to "hear just how strange and new the Velvets sounded, to grasp, intuitively as well as analytically, where that sound came from."

On The Daily this week

Monday: Why both American political parties are so invested in the Virginia governor's race.

Tuesday: Colin Powell died on Monday at 84. We look back on his life and singular career.

Wednesday: With Senator Joe Manchin's support for the Clean Electricity Program now extremely unlikely, what's next for American climate policy?

Thursday: The showdown in Chicago between Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the police union over vaccine mandates.

Friday: Our interview with Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi.

That's it for the Daily newsletter. See you next week.

Have thoughts about the show? Tell us what you think at thedaily@nytimes.com.

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