Libyans favour close relations with Western regimes – survey

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Libyans pray during Friday prayers in front of a US flag at the court square, in Benghazi, Libya, on 24 June, 2011. Photo – Hassan Ammar/AP

A majority of Libyans (54%) surveyed in March and April 2012 approve of the leadership of the US – among the highest approval Gallup has ever recorded in the Middle East and North Africa region, outside of Israel – a survey showed.

Last week, Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) handed over power to a new 200-member elected assembly in what is regarded as a major milestone in the country’s transition to democracy by many Western analysts. The handover of authority from the NTC, which has governed Libya since the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime nearly a year ago, marks the first peaceful transition of power in modern Libyan history, the survey report said.

The US government said it has provided $170 million in transitional aid to Libya to help confront humanitarian and security challenges since Moammar Gaddafi’s downfall.

The survey, carried out by Gallup World, said US support for the Libyan revolution may have generated an almost unprecedented level of goodwill towards Washington with 54% of Libyans approving of American leadership.

Libyans are far more likely than their Arab neighbors to have supported NATO’s military involvement in their nation’s conflict, with 75% saying they favoured intervention, compared with 33% in Tunisia, 14% in Algeria, and 13% in Egypt who say the same.

Unlike in Libya, revolutionaries in Tunisia and Egypt succeeded in overthrowing regimes without resorting to armed rebellion and foreign military support. Western military intervention in Libya’s revolution likely raised suspicions of ulterior motives and may have reminded neighbouring Arabs of prior, unpopular Western military campaigns in the region, the report admitted.

Despite high levels of support for NATO’s intervention and general approval of US/UK/EU leadership, many Libyans still consider Western military forces a potential threat to their country, with 48% saying they pose a major threat. However, Libyans are more worried about al Qaeda and Islamic militant groups, which 62% consider major security threats, and members of Gaddafi’s former regime, whom 61% consider to be a major threat.

The Gallup survey said Libyans broadly support several forms of potential assistance from the West, particularly military support. More than three in four Libyans (77%) favour Western societies sending military equipment to Libyan armed forces, while 18% do not. More than two in three Libyans (68%) also support the West sending military trainers to their country. That support for Western “boots on the ground” exists even while many Libyans consider Western forces a potential threat underscores both the poor condition of Libyan security forces and the immediate need for improved security, the survey disclosed.

“Libyans perceive many threats to their newfound freedom and largely share the West’s concern of Islamic militants. The US and the West now have a window in which to capitalise on Libyan goodwill and help the country to revive its economy, establish security, and emerge as a responsible member of the global community,” the Gallup survey said.

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