By Umar Khan
Tripoli, April 10
The formation of the new “Nation Party” (Hizb Al-Watan), a conservative . . .[restrict]force which has the backing of the prominent and respected Islamic cleric Dr Ali Salabi, is to be announced on April 16. The announcement will come at the end of a three-day event in Tripoli attended by newly elected delegates from cities across Libya.
According to party coordinator Mohammed Ghula, Dr Salabi will be a non-active member.
The idea of the party was raised at a conference last year but it took a while before things could be put in order. The organizers came up with the name of the “Nation Party” earlier this year. The process to register members began after offices were opened in towns and cities. According to Ghula there had been a very signficant response.
“We have party offices in 27 cities and the newly registered members will attend the three-day event starting on April 14. The transitional leadership will be elected and the party will be formally announced after that,” he said.
There are many prominent people associated with the party including Abdul Hakim Belhaj, the former head of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) and current head of the Tripoli Military Council as well as Mahmoud Hamza, Ali Zidan and Mansour Saif Al-Nasar.
Ghula was appreciative of the role the NTC had played in the early stages. “The NTC did a great job at the beginning of the revolution up until the announcement of liberation. They were supposed to leave after that but they never did. I think they could have done a better job.”
The elections are due in less than three months. When asked if the party would be ready to participate in the elections, Ghula answered that “we are ready for the June elections”. He did, however, think that rumours about a delay in the poll could be true. “A delay in the elections is expected as the NTC committee has not completed any step on time,” he said. “However, if the delay is for a few months, it will give some more time to the smaller and unorganized parties.”
Some reports surfaced last week about growing “differences of opinion” within the party and there were some serious concerns expressed by a few members of the LIFG. This then led to reports that the whole LIFG group might split from and form their own party. However, the differences were resolved and an agreement was reached between the party leaders.
Referring to the alleged differences, Ghula said that “anybody not happy with the party or the way it is going is free to leave. There were a few concerns from some of the members but everything is fine now. We met a number of times and finalized everything.”
Speaking about the regulations related to the party funding, he was stressed that all funding would be according to the law. “We will not accept any funding with conditions. It will all be done according to the law.”
When asked about the alleged Qatari links of Abdul Hakim Belhaj and the investment indirectly coming from a foreign state, he said “no member is obliged to pay money to the party and, just to put the record straight, up to now, he [Abdul Hakim Belhaj] has not given a single dinar to the party”.
The party will have a zero tolerance policy towards corruption says the spokesman. “We will make sure our members are not involved in any kind of corruption. The National Anti-Corruption Bureau will monitor the members of the congress and, at the same time, we will keep an eye on the party members internally in order to ensure accountability and to cross-check their performances and to see if they’re delivering on the promises they made to the public,” he said.
“The aim of the party is to preserve the identity of Libya as a Muslim country,” Ghula said, talking about the nature of the party. When asked if the party would join any coalition, he said the party was open to ideas but nothing had been decided as yet.
Speaking about the competition for votes in the upcoming elections, he said “it will be different as the people believe in the names and not in the party itself. That will change though. It will be very competitive and I think Mahmood Jibril’s coalition, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party and the National Front for the Salvation of Libya will be our main competitors.”
Umar Khan can be found at twitter.com/umarnkhan