George Joffe on Seif al-Qadhafi's annointment

George Joffe, on Seif al-Qadhafi's comeback in Libya, in the ARB:

On October 6, 2009, Colonel Qadhafi, while attending a commemoration for the Union of Free Officers (the movement that planned and executed the 1969 revolution), called on Libyans to create a formal position for his 37 year old son so that he could properly serve them.  The next day, the Libyan Socialist Popular Leadership, a body that brings together heads of tribes and social institutions, proposed that he should become coordinator of its organizing committee, a position that made Saif al-Islam the second most powerful person in the Libyan hierarchy after his father.  His appointment was confirmed ten days later.

The significance of this appointment cannot be overstated.  It is, in effect, the formal endorsement of Colonel Qadhafi’s second son as his successor through a process of republican dynasticism, thus ending the speculation of recent years over how the succession process in Libya is to be managed.  Yet it is also a mechanism by which Saif al-Islam has been domesticated within the current Libyan political system, despite all his ambitions to reform it profoundly.  It remains to be seen how compromised his reform agenda might be in consequence.  It is also not clear whether Saif al-Islam has built up all the informal alliances within the power structure, the security forces, and the tribes that will be necessary if he is to preserve the freedom of action he will undoubtedly need to counter pressure from regime radicals (and possibly his brothers too) to displace him.

This reminds me of the leaks of letters between Seif's brother Muatassim and the US lobbying and PR firms that I blogged about in early September, and makes me wonder: were they leaked by Seif?

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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.