The most likely result from Libya's upcoming election is political fragmentation, but Qaddafi's long rule has engendered fears that one party might control the new political arena. As a result, the new election law rules that only 80 of the 200 seats in the National General Congress can be allocated to parties, with the rest being reserved for individual candidates. It is for this reason that, while the Islamists are likely to do well in the polls, they will not be in a position to dominate in the same way they have done next door in Tunisia and Egypt.
Even as Libya's new rulers do everything possible to prevent the rise of another Qaddafi, the sad irony is that the colonel's legacy makes this ever more difficult. Qaddafi's refusal to allow any genuine political engagement means that only a few figures -- generally former exiles or those with links to reformists in the former regime -- have achieved national stature. As a result, aside from the Muslim Brotherhood, many of Libya's new parties are focused primarily around one or two personalities. The National Centrist Party, a project of former acting Prime Minister Ali Tarhouni, and Islamist leader Abdelhakim Belhaj's Al-Watan Party are examples of this phenomenon.
Furthermore, many of these parties are firmly anchored in a specific region, with some having to form coalitions in order to extend their reach to the national level. The new Libya has splintered into a collection of local power centers, all jostling to secure the interests of their immediate area -- a backlash against the excessive centralization and rigid control of the Qaddafi era.
The other reason for Libya's intense localism is that Qaddafi was the center -- and when he collapsed, the center collapsed with him. Aside from the energy sector, the colonel failed to create any meaningful institutions that could outlive him. Even the army, kept deliberately weak by Qaddafi, has been unable to survive the crisis and is struggling in the face of the militias, whose legitimacy is drawn from their revolutionary achievements. Despite the complex political system Qaddafi created, the state was really little more than a facade -- a smokescreen behind which Qaddafi and his coterie of close advisors retained complete control.
The intense localism that has emerged is also symptomatic of Qaddafi's failure to stamp a sense of "Libyanness" on the country. His long rule only served to intensify, rather than reduce, regional divisions. Always wary of the east given its links to the former monarchy, the colonel clamped down heavily on the region after it became the focus of an Islamist rebellion in the mid-1990s. The east's grievances would provide the spark that lit last year's revolt, but Qaddafi's punishment of the region has still left a bitter legacy. The east, it seems, has been unable to shake off a perceived sense of marginalization. In its most extreme form, this resentment has manifested itself in a movement for semiautonomy and a refusal to participate in the election.
There is also a wider sense in the east that Libya's new rulers are continuing to treat the region as Tripoli's poor cousin. The eastern city of Benghazi was quick to protest what it deemed to be the unfair distribution of seats in the National General Congress, claiming that it had been underrepresented. That's not to say these regional divisions are hopeless: In what must be one of the most extraordinary developments of the election campaign, the elders of Zawiya, a city near Tripoli, offered this month to give their seats to Benghazi as a gesture of kindness.