The ousting of the Gaddafi clan and the collapse of their jamahiriyasystem, has left many feeling unsure about Libya's political future. After all, the National Transitional Council (NTC) is not a political party and won't exist beyond the first elections. Many of its members, being having been officials in Gaddafi's regime, are unlikely to seek executive political positions.
The systematic suppression of civil society and all forms of opposition by Gaddafi has also left the country weak and fragile. So who will dominate Libya's political scene in the coming years?
The political scene in Libya today comprises four broad camps: nationalists, liberals, Islamists and secularists, according to Noman Benotman, an analyst at the Quilliam Foundation who is also a former member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
The nationalist camp, being the largest of these factions by far, contains 40%-50% of Libya's political activists. These are largely non-ideological players who will seek to establish a civil state based on Libyan culture and democracy. They have no strong views on the role of Islam in the state but do see it as an integral part of Libyan culture.
Many key defectors, such as Abdel-Salam Jalloud and Mustafa Abdul Jalil, are nationalists and currently the most high-profile political figures in Libya. As such, they could quite easily appeal to the masses, create a large power base and dominate the political scene.
The liberals, comprising 20%-25%, support an open democratic system with a free market economy. They will seek to create a civil state rooted in liberal values and encourage a socially liberal climate. However, they are viewed as elitist by most Libyans and could struggle to galvanise the masses. Their perceived elitism also makes them rather unpopular with other political factions.
Then there are the Islamists comprising around 20%. These can be subdivided into jihadists (2%), salafists (12%) and Muslim Brotherhood-style political Islamists (6%). The jihadists will most likely alienate the masses if they make a direct push for power – their harsh and crude approach will, inevitably, prove unpopular – but they are still capable of creating chaos and disorder.
The jihadists, with their uncompromising attitude, are unlikely to stand in elections or be part of a coalition and should, therefore, be viewed more as a security threat than serious political contenders. The salafists share the jihadist vision of creating a society dominated by a very strict and ultra-conservative interpretation of Islamic scripture, but they don't endorse terrorism. Rather, they believe they can achieve their vision through preaching and converting the masses.
The political Islamists, being influenced and inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood in neighbouring Egypt, are guided by the notion that Islam itself is an all-encompassing political ideology that Muslim-majority countries around the world are obliged to introduce. They reject terrorism as a political tactic and prefer a more pragmatic approach. As such, they will seek to be part of a democratic process and are capable of building alliances and entering into a coalition. Like the nationalists, they also are able to appeal to the masses and are highly likely to play a role in Libya's political future.
Finally, there are the secularists who make up 2%-5%. Inspired by the likes of Mustafa Ataturk, they would ideally like to introduce an ultra-secular state with religion playing no role whatsoever. They are unlikely to have mass appeal with their small numbers and a political vision that doesn't resonate with contemporary Libyan society. They will, however, be a thorn in the side of the Islamists.
As well as the political factions highlighted above, there are other existing and emerging power bases in Libya that will undoubtedly seek to assert themselves. During Gaddafi's rule, civil society was systematically undermined: NGOs, political parties and independent media outlets were banned.
The delicate and vital task of rebuilding civil society in Libya has already begun. Once civil society institutions have been rebuilt, their input will enrich the society in general and the political scene in particular. As such, Libya's success is in large part dependent upon its ability to build a vibrant civil society from the ashes of Gaddafi's regime.
While civil society was undermined under Gaddafi, Libya's extensive tribal system was emboldened. He cunningly played tribes off against one another and, predictably, took full advantage of the huge support he received from his own tribe.
Libyan tribes are non-ideological and generally not aligned to a particular political faction. They are, however, very loyal to their own kin and could be activated as huge voting blocs if political leaders belonging to the right tribes galvanise the tribal vote. They do, therefore, have the potential to play a key part.
Libya's military, having been strengthened during Gaddafi's 42-year rule, also has the potential to emerge as a power base. As in neighbouring Egypt, senior military officers have large economic interests that they will be seeking to protect. Military interference in politics in the future should not be ruled out, though it seems unlikely right now.
Ethnicity could also play a role in a post-Gaddafi Libya. Under Gaddafi's rule, Berber language and culture was suppressed while cultural and political mobilisation along sectarian lines was strongly discouraged. Homogeneity was imposed on Libyan society and this meant Berbers were expected to adopt Arab culture while abandoning their own. Therefore, it is highly likely that the Berbers – roughly 10%-15% of the population – will be keen to reassert their identity. While they are unlikely to seek political autonomy, they are likely to throw their support behind those who acknowledge and respect their cultural and ethnic differences.
If free and fair elections are held in Libya next year, it is highly likely that nationalist based parties will dominate. Political Islamist parties also have a good outside chance if they manage to run successful election campaigns. However, with Gaddafi and his loyalists still at large, a practically nonexistent civil society and jihadists hanging in the shadows, getting to free and fair elections is going to be far from straightforward.