15 february 2012

Libyans 'would prefer one-man-rule over democracy'

Society

Tripoli's Green Square
During 2011 there were reports of both anti-government protests and a pro-Gaddafi rally occurring at different times in Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli. (Credit: David Holt).

 The first ever National Survey of Libya suggests that Libyans would still prefer one-man-rule over alternatives like democracy.

The publication of the survey of over 2,000 Libyan people coincides with the anniversary of the first protests triggered by rebel forces against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. Despite the protests and eventual killing of Gaddafi, the survey reveals that 35 per cent would still like a strong leader or leaders for the country in five years’ time. Only 29 per cent of those surveyed said they would prefer to live in a democracy. However, 69 per cent of respondents also insisted that ordinary citizens should have a say in how the country should develop.

The face-to-face survey of a nationally representative sample of the population was conducted between December 2011 and January 2012 in a joint research project by the Institute of Human Sciences at the University of Oxford and Oxford Research International, a private research organisation, in association with the University of Benghazi. It finds that the Libyan population is largely optimistic about the future with up to 8 out of 10 people expecting improvements in their personal lives, economic circumstances and their country. Despite this apparent optimism, 16 per cent of those surveyed said they were ready to resort to violence for political ends. This would mean that around 630,000 people were potential fighters, in addition to the 280,000 who previously took up arms.

The first National Survey reveals that there is a great deal of optimism among the Libyan population about the future of their country.

Dr Andrew Gosler

There is already a plan for national elections being held in Libya with some suggesting they could take place as soon as June 2012. The survey suggests that most people in Libya distrust political parties with respondents giving them only 27 per cent of the maximum trust rating for institutions. The most trusted institution was Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), which received 81 per cent of the maximum trust from respondents overall.

Put in a position to spend 100 million Dinars, most Libyans said they would put health at the top of their list of priorities, providing it with an average of 34 per cent of the total budget. Education would receive an average of 27 per cent of the total budget while, perhaps surprisingly, environmental improvements such as tree planting would be given an average eight per cent of the total budget, according to the survey.

Dr Andrew Gosler, from the Institute of Human Sciences at the University of Oxford, said: 'The first National Survey holds many surprises for the world on what the Libyan people want following decades of autocratic rule under the Gaddafi regime. It reveals that there is a great deal of optimism amongst the population about the future of their country. When asked about their spending priorities, health and education came top as you might expect, but the Libyans also seem surprisingly ready to do more on the environment where there is universal concern across all political divides.'

Dr Christoph Sahm, Director of Oxford Research International, said: 'Although there appears to be a push for an early election, the population seems to be happy with the National Transitional Council overall. Perhaps more significantly the Libyan people have not yet developed trust towards political parties, preferring a return of one-man rule. Yet they have also resoundingly said they want a say in how their country is run, which suggests that Libyans who have had autocratic rule for decades lack the knowledge of how a democracy works and need more awareness of the alternatives to autocratic government.

'Overall, this survey suggests we should feel optimistic about the future of Libya. However, this survey also reveals there is potential for future instability as a significant minority have indicated that they would be prepared to take up arms. There is also a lack of awareness about how democracies work and the Libyan people are currently being ill equipped to consider the alternatives to autocratic rule.'