By Mick Krever, CNN
Libya is just a few days out from its first election in decades. And Libya’s game-changing politician is already well-versed in the art of political speech.
“The only victorious party is the Libyan people,” said Mahmoud Jibril, whose National Forces Alliance seems poised to win the election.
Jibril served as Libya’s interim prime minister after Moammar Gadhafi was deposed last October after 42 years of iron-fisted rule.
“The Libyan people have managed to prove one thing: That they are the real decision maker. That the destiny of this country is not in the hands of an individual, of any political force or political party. It’s only in their hands. And this is very comforting to me.”
Libya is, in more ways than one, bucking the trend of the Arab Spring.
Egypt’s first democratic election last month was overshadowed by a military power grab. Syria, after more than 16 months of protest and rebellion, is engulfed in a violent conflict with no end in sight.
But Libya, which has been without a real government, political parties or civil society for decades, has pulled off an election with nary a hitch. And, unlike its neighbors Tunisia and Libya, it appears to have elected a secular, non-Islamist party.
Indeed, Jibril said, the biggest challenge he faces is convincing the Islamists that he is a true partner.
“Now it’s time that we sit around one table and talk about one destiny,” he said.
Libyan Islamists have suggested that Jibril is not “Islamic” enough to lead Libya.
“I am a true Muslim,” Jibril asserted. “But I have nothing to do with ideology, whether it’s secularism, liberalism, political Islam. I believe in knowledge that builds societies.”
From one rebel to another
Despite lasting nearly nine months, the uprising in Libya looks shockingly effective next to the mayhem that has engulfed Syria.
Jibril was crucial in getting Western powers to recognize the Libyan rebels as the true arbiters of the state. It was an important step towards convincing European powers to give weapons and supplies to the fighters.
In Syria, Western ambivalence towards the rebels – the “who are they” question – remains a significant roadblock to support.
“The name of the game is ‘unity,’” Jibril said. “When they are united they can have effectiveness, and when they have effectiveness they can make the world, the whole world listen to them.”
But Jibril has just witnessed his country’s first democratic election, less than a year after its despot was found cowering in a drainage pipe. He is not prone to pessimism.
“Oh yeah, they will win,” Jibril said of the Syrian rebels. “Any regime in the world, in my opinion, the moment they spill just one drop of blood of their own citizens they have lost legitimacy for good. Period. It’s just a matter of time."
CNN’s Claire Calzonetti produced this piece for television.