Koert Debeuf Column

Zenga Zenga Democracy ? (Column)

A large concrete pipe where Colonel Gaddafi was allegedly captured.

A large concrete pipe where Colonel Gaddafi was allegedly captured.

On one of my sleepless nights, surfing on Youtube, I found a film of a disco in Tunis where people were dancing to the so-called Gaddafi song. It is a great mix of the mad speech Muammar Gaddafi gave some months ago to warn the Libyan opposition would hunt them down wherever they go: “Dar, dar, beit, beit, zenga, zenga” meaning in Arabic “house by house, apartment by apartment, alleyway by alleyway”.

In the past two months the roles were reversed. The rebels where hunting Gaddafi dar, dar, beit, beit, zenga, zenga.

Last Thursday on 20 October they found him in Sirte, in a pipe. When some rebels dragged him out, he asked one of them: “What have I done wrong to you?” The guy must have been too baffled to answer this appalling question. What have you done wrong to me? Um, well, where to begin? Being the last words of one of the most cruel dictators of our times, they tell us a lot about how this madman’s mind functioned. Probably, he really thought that murdering, torturing, raping and starving people was for the best of his country.

But now that the dust is settling, the biggest challenge for Libya is about to begin: The building of a new country on the ruins of the old one. More than 40 years of leadership from the frere-guide, the King of Kings of Africa, the leader of the revolution, have left behind a country without political parties, without intellectuals, without trade unions, without political structures and without civil society. Libya is a political desert.

Luckily, there are also wise and strong people like Mahmoud Jibril around. Without trying to be party-political, the Alde group can still be proud of the fact they were the first to invite Jibril to Europe, the first to recognise the Transitional National Council and to support its demand for a no-fly zone.

But two strong people are not enough. An entire new political structure has to be built. No wonder that even as Nato gets out of Libya, a new Western army comes in: the army of democracy builders. They will give all possible support to constructing a parliamentary democracy, based on models in the West.

At this point, we must be brave and dare to ask if trying to export our own parliamentary system is really the best thing to do ?

It is a question all the more urgent since our system is currently facing its own problems. Nobody can deny we have problems of legitimacy, problems of inability to give proper answers to the financial and economic crisis. Thousands of Indignados are filling the streets of our capitals. In short, we must dare to admit that our system of democracy needs some rethinking.

So instead of trying to introduce our rules of politics in Libya, would it not be more adequate to use the Libyan political desert to create a new democratic oasis? A system with more participation of citizens, more involvement of people in the decision-making process, a stakeholder democracy, a system in which the “heart of power really is empty”, as the French philiosopher Claude Lefort put it.

Instead of lagging behind, Libya could become a model of a new kind of democracy. There are some-sharp thinking Libyans who want to give experiments a chance and to give the people in the street the opportunity to co-build a new country. Let us think together with them how to build a zenga zenga democracy.

by Koert Debeuf

FLI Koert Debeuf PortretKoert Debeuf lives in Cairo, Egypt, where he represented the EU parliament’s Alde group for many years. Currently he is Project Coordinator “World Leaders on Transitions towards Democracy” at International IDEA. He is a former advisor of a Belgian prime minister. Reporting from post-revolutionary Egypt, his columns are a window on events in the Arab world. Koert Debeuf is also author of ‘Inside the Arab Revolution’.

For more columns of Koert Debeuf, click here.

You can follow @koertdebeuf on Twitter

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