Africa

Who might lead Libya after Gaddafi?

Mustafa Mohammed Abdul Jalil
Image caption Mustafa Abdul Jalil has a reputation for integrity

After the initial jubilation in Benghazi, there is a more anxious mood now.

People recognise that the battle is not yet won and that there is more hard fighting ahead in Tripoli.

And there is the risk of chaos if a new government does not take charge quickly.

The expectation is that a new administration would be based on the National Transitional Council, or NTC, formed by the rebels in Benghazi in the early days of the revolution.

That still leaves open the question of who would be Libya's new leader after nearly 42 years of Col Gaddafi's rule.

The frontrunner is the NTC's chairman, Mustafa Abdul Jalil. A former justice minister, he is popular in the east and has a reputation for integrity.

"He was the only one who would stand up to Gaddafi, who would tell him 'No'," said one Benghazi resident.

But Mr Abdul Jalil has threatened to resign several times and it is not clear how much he really wants the job.

Uneasy coalition

Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the NTC's cabinet, the Executive Board, could step in.

He has the reputation of being a capable technocrat and is said to make many of the day-to-day decisions involved in running the NTC.

Image caption Mahmoud Jibril is responsible for many of the daily decisions about the running of the NTC

His colleague, Ali Tarhouni, also has a very high profile, having returned from exile abroad to take charge of the vital issue of finance for the rebels.

Another name sometimes mentioned is Shokri Ghanem, a former prime minister who helped liberalise the economy, though he is outside Libya now and did not become part of the NTC.

If, or when, Col Gaddafi is finally pushed aside, the difficulties could really begin for a new government.

Widespread looting, revenge attacks against Col Gaddafi's loyalists or internecine fighting are all potential threats to order and stability as the new regime attempts to come into being.

The NTC itself is a loose collection of different factions - Islamist and secular, former members of the regime and longstanding exiles - some with little more in common than their desire to get rid of Col Gaddafi.

The rebel movement is also an uneasy coalition between the east and west of the country.

No-one has forgotten the assassination in July of the rebel's military chief, Gen Abdul Fattah Younis, apparently killed by some of the men under his command.

It could have been those loyal to Col Gaddafi, or Islamists or Libyans bent on revenge as Gen Younis had been Col Gaddafi's interior minister.

Revenge

There are deep and potentially dangerous divisions in the revolutionary movement as it stands on the brink of power.

The rebels fighting in Tripoli now are a mosaic of different militias as much as a single army.

The immediate challenge facing the political leadership in Benghazi is to prevent revenge killings targeting those loyal to Col Gaddafi.

That would risk losing the support of the Nato countries which brought victory within the rebels grasp. It would also undermine the legitimacy of any new government.

Mr Abdul Jalil said he would resign if commanders did not respect the rule of law - an extraordinary admission that parts of the military may be outside political control.

No single charismatic, political personality has emerged yet on the rebel side, the kind of figure who could force dissident elements of the rebel forces into line and heal the divisions in the country.

But, after more than four decade of Col Gaddafi's rule, Libyans may feel that another strongman is exactly what they do not want.

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