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Politics of Libya

Libya's political system is theoretically based on the political philosophy in Moammar Al Qadhafi's Green Book, which combines socialist and Islamic theories and rejects parliamentary democracy and political parties. In reality, Qadhafi exercises near total control over the government.

For the first 7 years following the revolution, Colonel Qadhafi and 12 fellow army officers, the Revolutionary Command Council[?], began a complete overhaul of Libya's political system, society, and economy. On March 3, 1977, Qadhafi convened a General People's Congress (GPC) to proclaim the establishment of "people's power," change the country's name to the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and to vest, theoretically, primary authority in the GPC. Qadhafi remained the de facto chief of state and secretary general of the GPC until 1980, when he gave up his office. He continues to control all aspects of the Libyan Government through direct appeals to the masses, a pervasive security apparatus, and powerful revolutionary committees. Although he holds no formal office, Qadhafi exercises absolute power with the assistance of a small group of trusted advisers, who include relatives from his home base in the Surt region, which lies between the rival provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica.

The Libyan court system consists of four levels: summary courts, which try petty offenses, the courts of first instance, which try more serious crimes; the courts of appeals, and the Supreme Court, which is the final appellate level. The GPC appoints justices to the Supreme Court. Special "revolutionary courts" and military courts operate outside the court system to try political offenses and crimes against the state. Libya's justice system is nominally based on Sharia law.

After the revolution, Qadhafi took increasing control of the government, but he also attempted to achieve greater popular participation in local government. In 1973, he announced the start of a "cultural revolution" in schools, businesses, industries, and public institutions to oversee administration of those organizations in the public interest. The March 1977 establishment of "people's power"--with mandatory popular participation in the selection of representatives to the GPC--was the culmination of this process.

The GPC is the legislative forum that interacts with the General People's Committee[?], whose members are secretaries of Libyan ministries. It serves as the intermediary between the masses and the leadership and is composed of the secretariats of some 600 local "basic popular congresses."

The GPC secretariat and the cabinet secretaries are appointed by the GPC secretary general and confirmed by the annual GPC congress. These cabinet secretaries are responsible for the routine operation of their ministries, but Qadhafi exercises real authority directly or through manipulation of the peoples and revolutionary committees.

In the 1980s, competition grew between the official Libyan Government and military hierarchies and the revolutionary committees. An abortive coup attempt in May 1984, apparently mounted by Libyan exiles with internal support, led to a short-lived reign of terror in which thousands were imprisoned and interrogated. An unknown number were executed. Qadhafi used the revolutionary committees to search out alleged internal opponents following the coup attempt, thereby accelerating the rise of more radical elements inside the Libyan power hierarchy.

In 1988, faced with rising public dissatisfaction with shortages in consumer goods and setbacks in Libya's war with Chad, Qadhafi began to curb the power of the revolutionary committees and to institute some domestic reforms. The regime released many political prisoners and eased restrictions on foreign travel by Libyans. Private businesses were again permitted to operate.

In the late 1980s, Qadhafi began to pursue an anti-Islamic fundamentalist policy domestically, viewing fundamentalism as a potential rallying point for opponents of the regime. Ministerial positions and military commanders are frequently shuffled or placed under temporary house arrest to diffuse potential threats to Qadhafi's authority.

Despite these measures, internal dissent continues. Qadhafi's security forces launched a preemptive strike at alleged coup plotters in the military and among the Warfallah tribe in October 1993. Widespread arrests and government reshufflings followed, accompanied by public "confessions" from regime opponents and allegations of torture and executions. The military, once Qadhafi's strongest supporters, became a potential threat in the 1990s. In 1993, following a failed coup attempt that implicated senior military officers, Qadhafi began to purge the military periodically, eliminating potential rivals and inserting his own loyal followers in their place.

Country name:
conventional long form: Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
conventional short form: Libya
local long form: Al Jumahiriyah al Arabiyah al Libiyah ash Shabiyah al Ishtirakiyah (Arabic: الجمهوريّة العربيّة اللّيبيّة الشعبيّة اشتراكيّة)
local short form: none
former: Italian North Africa

Data code: LY

Government type: Jamahiriya (a state of the masses) in theory, governed by the populace through local councils; in fact, a military dictatorship

Capital: Tripoli (Arabic: طرابلس)

Administrative divisions: 25 municipalities (baladiyat, singular - baladiyah); Ajdabiya, Al 'Aziziyah, Al Fatih, Al Jabal al Akhdar, Al Jufrah, Al Khums, Al Kufrah, An Nuqat al Khams, Ash Shati', Awbari, Az Zawiyah, Banghazi, Darnah, Ghadamis, Gharyan, Misratah, Murzuq, Sabha, Sawfajjin, Surt, Tarabulus, Tarhunah, Tubruq, Yafran, Zlitan
note: the 25 municipalities may have been replaced by 13 regions

Independence: 24 December 1951 (from Italy)

National holiday: Revolution Day, 1 September (1969)

Constitution: 11 December 1969, amended 2 March 1977

Legal system: based on Italian civil law system and Islamic law; separate religious courts; no constitutional provision for judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal and compulsory

Executive branch:
chief of state: Revolutionary Leader Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi (since 1 September 1969); note - holds no official title, but is de facto chief of state
head of government: Secretary of the General People's Committee (Premier) Mubarak al-SHAMEKH (since 2 March 2000)
cabinet: General People's Committee established by the General People's Congress
elections: national elections are indirect through a hierarchy of people's committees; head of government elected by the General People's Congress; election last held NA (next to be held NA)
election results: Mubarak al-SHAMEKH elected head of government; percent of General People's Congress vote - NA

Legislative branch: unicameral General People's Congress (NA seats; members elected indirectly through a hierarchy of people's committees)

Judicial branch: Supreme Court

Political parties and leaders: none

Political pressure groups and leaders: various Arab nationalist movements with almost negligible memberships may be functioning clandestinely, as well as some Islamic elements

International organization participation: ABEDA, AfDB, AFESD, AL, AMF, AMU, CAEU, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, MONUC, NAM, OAPEC, OAU, OIC, OPEC, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO

Flag description: plain green; green is the traditional color of Islam (the state religion)

See also : Libya



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