Eastern Regionalism and Libya’s Political Transition
This chapter examines Libya’s eastern region from September 2011 to June 2012 and the socioeconomic drivers behind the growth of Islamism and “federalism”. It charts its history as a traditional and cohesive region structured around the Sanusiyya religious order and Bedouin tribal system, and describes how the federal constitutional state of 1951 was transformed by the discovery of oil and centralization of the state. It traces the reemergence of tribal structures during the 17 February Revolution, and, in parallel, of political activism and civil society, as well as Islamist groups hostile to the old tribal elites. It describes how some easterners and NTC members rejected the NTC after its move to Tripoli and wished to reinstate the 1951 federal constitution, arguing this movement fear a return to the status quo and tried to exploit “tribal » identities and memories of the King Idris monarchy, but failed because of demographic shifts and alternative modalities of political organization that limited the appeal of tribal structures. Likewise, the tribes themselves differed over the way forward. It concludes by noting that control of oil and water resources, and Libyan sensitivities to the east’s role in shaping Libya’s politics, will influence the region’s future.
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