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Libya - Politics - 2012

On January 4, 2012, the National Transitional Council of Libya repealed Law 17-1972, which had prohibited the establishment of political parties. The Law was issued under the Gaddafi regime with the purpose of limiting the role of political movements in Libya and enhancing the regime's concept of direct democracy, called "the state of the masses." Under the 1972 law, the Gaddafi regime replaced political parties with what was called "the Arab Socialist Union." Individuals found guilty of violating the Law could be given the death sentence.

Libya was to hold a landmark election July 7, 2012 to elect a new government. Voters were to elect a national assembly, tasked with creating the country's constitution. Nearly three million voters were eligible to cast ballots to fill the 200 seat assembly. Roughly 1,400 candidates and 71 political parties applied to run. The election date was moved from June to July, due to logistical problems. Parliamentary and presidential elections are expected around mid-2013. The last time Libya had a multi-party election was in 1952.

Libya postponed the landmark election to give the nation more time to prepare for its first vote since the ouster of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in an armed rebellion. The UN mission in Libya praised the decision to switch the election for a national assembly from the original date of June 19 to July 7, saying it would "enable essential preparations to be completed prior to voting." In a statement issued Sunday, UN envoy Ian Martin said Libya's election commission has made "admirable" progress in the context of what he called "an extremely tight timetable and major operational challenges." Libyan election commission chief Nouri Al-Abbar said the 18-day postponement was needed to give voters more time to register and to give authorities more time to examine the qualifications of candidates.

The July 2012 vote was meant to produce a national assembly that will write a new Libyan constitution and form a government to replace the unelected National Transitional Council that took over from Gadhafi. Libya says 80 percent of eligible voters have registered for the election so far, equivalent to 2.7 million people. Dozens of new political parties have been formed to contest 80 of the assembly's 200 seats. The other 120 seats are reserved for independent candidates.

The eastern region around the city of Benghazi complained of neglect by the interim government in Tripoli in the west. Hundreds protested on July 6 in Benghazi over the fact the east of Libya had been allotted only 60 seats in the assembly compared to 102 for the west.

Libyans’ expectations of concrete progress in the post-revolution period were strongest in relation to security, where ordinary Libyans would like to see a coherent process of rebuilding institutions, establishing the rule of law and integrating the so-called revolutionary forces. Armed clashes in early 2012 between various groups have tested the reach and authority of the government’s security apparatus and ability to impose the rule of law. there had been five days of fighting at the end of March between Arab and Tabu brigades in Sabha in the south-west, resulting in approximately 150 dead and 500 wounded. That had been followed by three days of fighting between three towns in the west, with nearly 50 reported dead, and more clashes in the south-west, involving the Tabu Community and elements of the National Army, on 21 April 2012. In each case, the Government had taken swift action in deploying forces and mediation capabilities.

A key issue related to public security is the integration or demobilization of the revolutionary fighters and the control of weapons. Given the “terrible legacy” confronting the transitional authorities in Libya, their efforts in establishing a functioning State based on the rule of law and democracy deserve praise and support, but serious problems in governance, security, human rights and other areas should be faced squarely, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative told the Security Council 10 May 2012. “The international community should be frank with them and with ourselves in continuing to identify the challenges and gaps, and remaining committed to support the Libyans in their quest for democracy and stability with technical advice and practical support,” Ian Martin, who is also the Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), said.

Political parties were banned in Libya from 1972 until the collapse of the Qadhafi regime, and all elections were nonpartisan under law. However, the NTC has made the introduction of multiparty democracy a cornerstone of its agenda and the constitutional declaration enshrined the establishment of a “democratic political system based on political and party pluralism”. A number of new political parties had already been announced and as the country built up to its first elections in over 42 years more parties are likely to be formed.

On 07 July 2012 more than 1,400 people, and possibly as many as 3,700, ran for the 200 seats at stake in the National Assembly (General National Congress / General People's Congres - Mutamar Al Chaab Al Aam) election in Libya - the country's first multiparty election in 60 years. There were dozens of Islamist and relatively secular parties, and hundreds of independent candidates. Islamists were expected to do well. Partial counts from Libya's big cities gave the lead to an alliance of parties led by former rebel prime minister Mahmoud Jibril. He had called for a national dialogue of all parties to form a new government.

The successful elections on 7 July 2012 marked a significant step forward for Libya in its democratic transition. Amid the constraints imposed by a compressed electoral timetable, a volatile security environment and lack of previous experience in electoral administration, the elections were a remarkable achievement. With turnout estimated at slightly in excess of 62 per cent, some 1.77 million voters participated in this historic event, in a general atmosphere of pride and enthusiasm. On 09 August 2012 Libya's transitional council handed power to the assembly, which was elected last month in the nation's first free election in 60 years. Mustafa Abdel Jalil, the chairman of the transitional council, handed power to the elected body's eldest member, Mohammed Ali Salim, in a ceremony in a Tripoli hotel.

On August 10th, 2012 Libya's new General National Congress elected former opposition leader Mohammed el-Megarif as its president. Megarif received 113 votes from the 200-member Congress, defeating independent Ali Zidan, who won 85. Megarif was the leader of Libya's oldest opposition movement, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which tried several times to end the 42-year rule of late leader Moammar Gadhafi. After living in exile since the 1980s, Mr. Megarif returned to Libya following the revolution last year that ousted Gadhafi. Megarif, now head of the National Front party, will led the new Congress as it chose a prime minister and steered the nation to full parliamentary elections after a new constitution is drafted.

The first prime minister-designate, Mustafa Abu Shaghur, gave up after parliament voted down his cabinet following complaints that his nominations lacked diversity among the political parties. On 07 October 2012 Libya's General National Congress rejected Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur's Cabinet lineup by a vote of 125-44 with several abstentions, resulting in his removal from office. He had offered lawmakers a lineup of 10 ministers, scaled down from his original list of 29 ministries, proposed last week.

On October 15th, 2012 Libyan lawmakers selected a new interim prime minister, a week after giving a vote of no confidence to their former pick for failing to present an acceptable Cabinet. Libya's General National Congress on Sunday elected Ali Zidan, a former career diplomat who defected in the 1980s and became an outspoken critic of former leader Moammar Gadhafi. He later became a human rights advocate.

Armed militiamen and protestors demonstrated at Libya's national assembly building in Tripoli following protests over the country's newly approved cabinet. The dissent erupted 01 November 2012 after parliament endorsed the 30-member cabinet chosen by Prime Minister-designate Ali Zeidan, who tried to strike a balance in his new government between members of the liberal coalition and the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party. The protestors said some members of the Cabinet, most notably the foreign and interior ministers, have ties to the former regime of Moammar Gadhafi. They say members with such links should be excluded from political life in accordance with a recently approved law forbidding members of the former regime from holding office in any new government.

The majority of parliamentarians in Libya's General National Congress are civilian professionals and former exiled opposition members with little or no political experience or knowledge of how to run a government. Congressional sessions usually last for hours with members making vague speeches, asking off-topic questions, or arguing personal drama. In December 2012, tempers rose over a disagreement and one member walked across the congress and punched another member.




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