Facing a militia oil blockade and a dissident-led offensive intended to purge the country of 'terrorists', Libya's Muslim Brotherhood-led Congress has pledged to hold elections. But Brotherhood members fear that they will lose at the ballot box and see their opponents launch a purge against them similar to that of Egypt. Without elections, Libya seems set for prolonged conflict.

The Muslim Brotherhood has manoeuvred itself into a position of power in Libya's fractious General National Congress despite only enjoying minority support among the electorate. Its militias are among the most powerful in Libya, and it has benefitted from the disintegration of the largest parliamentary party, the National Forces Alliance (NFA), a grouping of former regime figures, tribal leaders and liberals.

But its attempts to purge the administration of Gadhafi-era officials and build a powerful parallel army have stoked resentment among opponents, who are blockading the bulk of Libya’s oil production, starving the government of its primary source of revenue. It presides over Congress, whose term expired in February having made no progress on the design of a national constitution.

In May 2014, Khalifa Hiftar, a former Gadhafi-era general and US-trained dissident, launched attacks on Islamist militias in Benghazi and the Congress in Tripoli. Congress reacted by announcing elections for 25 June, but fighting continued, and the Brotherhood faces a difficult choice. If it delays the elections, fighting may escalate and the oil will run dry. If it holds the elections on schedule, it is likely to lose, with Islamists fearing a subsequent purge similar to that inflicted on its sister organisation in Egypt.

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