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Libya - Government Background

Libya needs a viable government and system of rule so that it can focus on reconstruction and on healing the divisions opened up by the war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi. It has never had a constitution, being ruled by a set of laws drawn up by Gaddafi in his Green Book. The new charter is to be drawn up by 60 members elected by Libyans, but the election is still only a distant promise rather than a near prospect because of internal squabbling and administrative delays.

In July 2012 Libyans voted for members of a 200-seat National Assembly that formed a temporary government and draft a constitution before parliamentary elections in 2013. In the interim, the popularly elected General National Congress, the “legitimate representative of the Libyan people” is composed of 120 independent seats and 80 party seats. The Congress elects a President, and a Prime Minister. It must also approve the Prime Ministers choice of a slate of cabinet members.

In the General People's Congres (Mutamar Al Chaab Al Aam), 40 members are elected by plurality vote in single-member constituencies, 80 members are elected by plurality vote in multi-member constituencies and 80 members are elected through a closed-list proportional representation system [the party seats]. District magnitude for the proportional districts ranges from 3 to 11. Article 15 of the election law mandates that candidates should alternate genders on the lists and that half of all a party's list must have a female at the top. District magnitude for the SNTV (plurality vote in multi-member constituencies) seats ranges from 2 to 9. Fifty of the 69 majoritarian districts will be parallel, meaning they contain both a proportional tier and either a SNTV or SMD tier. Three geographic constituencies feature only a proportional representation ballot being provided to voters.

The Libyan Transitional National Council set up a rival government in Benghazi. The 45-member Council included representatives from throughout Libya and is headed by Chairman (and former Qadhafi Minister of Justice) Mustafa Abdul Jalil. The Council acted as the opposition’s legislative branch and appointed an executive committee, headed by Mahmoud Jibril, to oversee interim governance issues. The TNC stated repeatedly its desire to serve only as an interim body and has issued plans to draft a constitution and hold nationwide elections as soon as Qadhafi is removed from power.

With the declaration of liberation on 23 October 2011, the clock started running on commitments made by the National Transitional Council in its Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011. In the latter, it was stipulated that the Council would relocate to Tripoli and establish an interim Government within 30 days; then, within a 90-day period, it would adopt electoral legislation and establish an electoral management body. Within 240 days, Libya would hold elections for a national congress, which would give democratic legitimacy to a new government and to the drafting of a new constitution. The constitution would be put to a popular referendum within 30 days of its adoption by the national congress, and Libya would proceed to its first elections according to the constitution.

On 07 July 2012, Libya held its first election in more than four decades, choosing a 200-seat General National Assembly to replace the Transitional National Council (TNC) that governed during and after the fall of the Gaddafi regime. The largely peaceful election marked the first step toward national unity and rebuilding a government by establishing a representative body; over the past several months, support for the interim government has been declining due to poor management of the transition and a lack of transparency. The General National Assembly will formulate Libya’s government, with its two main objectives being to choose a prime minister and select a Constituent Assembly, who will draft a constitution, within 30 days of their first meeting. The success of the election is a promising sign for future state building efforts, despite many issues leftover from the Gaddafi era and civil war.

Militias formerly actively opposed to the Qadhafi regime were affiliated with or integrated into government security forces. They nominally and intermittently reported to civilian authorities but more often acted autonomously, particularly in the eastern part of the country. With the disappearance of the authoritarian Qadhafi regime, militias that spearheaded his overthrow filled a security vacuum in most parts of the country. Militias and their supporters -- at times nominally but not fully under the control of the interim and later the elected government’s authority -- violated human rights and humanitarian norms, committing unlawful killings, physical violence, and other abuses.

Hostility to real and perceived Qadhafi loyalists permeated the country, the principal targets of which were actual or suspected former Qadhafi soldiers or supporters. Nongovernmental actors, including autonomous militias and armed tribal groups, committed human rights abuses. Disappearances, illegal detentions, and imprisonment of persons on political grounds occurred, as did looting and further violence. Vulnerable civilian populations, including ethnic minorities and migrants, faced ongoing violence and discrimination. The legacy of decades of personalized dictatorship, marginalized institutions, an ineffective legal framework, and isolation from the international community severely hindered government efforts to enforce the rule of law.

On 01 June 2013, the Transitional Council of Barqa, which brought together pro-federalists in the east, unilaterally declared eastern Libya a federal region. The Council claimed the move was necessary in the light of the central Government’s failure to address the political, security and socioeconomic needs of eastern Libya, and stated that it would work towards establishing its own governance structures. Surveys indicate that public support for federalism is low. However, there remains a broad consensus on the need for the decentralization of government services, the generation of employment opportunities and heightened investment in infrastructure throughout the region. In a move designed to reaffirm its commitment to address these legitimate concerns, the Government announced on 5 June that it would re-establish in due course the headquarters of the National Oil Company and a number of other State institutions in Benghazi.

Delays in adopting the electoral law for the Constitutional Drafting Assembly meant that the timelines specified for the transitional period would extend beyond the mandate of the General National Congress, which ended in February 2014. The General National Congress (GNC) voted on 23 December 2013 to extend its own mandate for another 12 months, which sparked anger among democracy activists, who argue the extension is not legitimate and sets a dangerous precedent. The GNC created a flap on 03 February 2014 when it prolonged its official mandate amid some popular discontent, also passing a law making it illegal to “publicly insult the legislative, judicial and executive powers in the country.”

In February 2014 the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Libya, in partnership with the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), organized a series of “Inclusive Constitution” workshops for candidates of the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA). The workshops were held at Corinthia hotel in Tripoli from 1st to 9th of February 2014 and reached over 55% of the 648 (64 women) CDA candidates, including 324 men and 39 women from all regions. Once the 60-member constitutional assembly is elected on 20 February 2014, it would have 120 days to draft a new charter, which would then be submitted to a popular referendum. If the document is approved, an election for a proper parliament would be held in late 2014.

Libyans trickled to the polls on 20 February 2014 to elect an assembly to draft a constitution. By the late afternoon only 360,000 people had cast ballots, out of one million who had registered to vote — far fewer than the three million who had registered before the 2012 parliamentary election. The paltry turnout reflecting deep political disillusion with the chaos pervading Libya. The 60-strong constitutional committee, with members drawn equally from Libya's three regions, would have 120 days to draft the new charter, which would then be put to a referendum.

On June 25, voters chose a new interim parliament in similarly administered elections, characterized by an estimated 42 percent turnout of registered voters. The new national legislature, the House of Representatives (HoR), replaced the previous interim legislative body, the General National Congress (GNC), which had unilaterally extended its mandate in December 2013 for one year. On September 22, the HoR approved a new government, led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, which the international community recognized as the legitimate government. In a controversial November 6 ruling, the Supreme Court appeared to invalidate the HoR by overturning a provision of the Constitutional Declaration relating to the HoR’s election.

The outbreak of major political violence in July 2014 led to the loss of central government control over much of the country’s territory and the emergence of rival administrations based in Tripoli and the eastern city of Tobruk. The internationally recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni did not maintain effective control of government forces or allied militias. Military forces and militias affiliated with both the recognized government and its opponents committed numerous, serious human rights abuses, including the targeting of civilians.

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Page last modified: 14-02-2016 20:08:51 ZULU