Islamists have not conceded defeat yet in Libya's July 7 elections, but with the moderate National Forces Alliance looking like it has won big, the coalition is already talking with smaller parties and independents about setting up a new government. It's an amazing turnaround for Alliance leader Mahmoud Jibril, who was perceived as weak and awkward just last year, and whose party was lagging badly behind Islamists, reports the Wall Street Journal. But Jibril, who holds a PhD in economics from the University of Pittsburgh, went on a national tour to network with local leaders, help street-level credibility, and build the Alliance brand.
The Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated party, meanwhile, seemed to suffer from an image problem, with many Libyans expressing fears about religious extremism. Just before the elections, the Alliance also received an unexpected boost, when Libya's top cleric went on TV to warn against "secularists." "It was like Gadhafi had suddenly returned. Libyans heard someone ordering them to do something," said a senior Alliance figure. "They did the opposite."