Analysis - If Libyan rebels win, can they rule?

Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:33pm GMT

By William Maclean

LONDON (Reuters) - Now Tripoli has risen, the main uncertainty is not whether Muammar Gaddafi's rule will survive, but whether the rebels can prevent Libya descending into chaos after he has gone.

There is no doubt Gaddafi's end is closer. With small groups of rebels fighting inside the capital and bigger rebel units battling their way towards the city, the veteran ruler is under unprecedented pressure days just days ahead of the September 1 anniversary of the 1969 coup that brought him to power.

Assuming Gaddafi does fall, the rebels will quickly have to fill a power vacuum. The main rebel group, based in Benghazi in the country's east, consists of former government ministers who have defected, and longstanding opposition figures, representing a range of political views including Arab nationalists, Islamists, secularists, socialists and businessmen.

Far from monolithic, their military forces are a patchwork of armed groups, former soldiers and freelance militias, including self-appointed neighbourhood gangs and former members of an Islamist guerrilla group crushed by Gaddafi in the 1990s.

The challenges they face will be huge. The economy is in turmoil, communications are disrupted, public services are damaged and heavily-armed groups are likely to remain at large.

So far, though, the main rebel leadership has a poor track record of governing. Riven by factionalism, the NTC has struggled to bring security to the areas it controls. Analysts who study the opposition say some rebel groups in other parts of the country want nothing to do with the NTC, so unimpressive is its military record.

Will those divisions open up as the rebels take control?

"They are very concerned to avoid another Iraq and to get a smooth and clean political transition, but it could be very messy indeed," said Oliver Miles, a former British ambassador to Libya.   Continued...

Libyan rebel fighters run for cover from incoming fire as they advance through the town of Maia, 25 kms (15 miles) from Tripoli, August 21, 2011.   REUTERS/Bob Strong
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