Libya prepares for peaceful change

2012-08-07 22:40

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Tripoli - Libya's National Transitional Council is set to hand over power on Wednesday to an assembly elected last month in a symbolic move marking the first peaceful transition of power in the country's modern history.

NTC chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil will pass the reins to the oldest member of the 200-seat legislative assembly elected on July 7 in a late-evening ceremony in Tripoli, with the time chosen because of Ramadan, the holy fasting month during which Muslims forego food and drink from dawn until dusk.

The NTC is then due to be dissolved.

A conference room has been arranged in an upscale hotel in the Libyan capital as a makeshift assembly hall, with meetings due to begin on Saturday or Sunday, according to an NTC official.

Assembly members held an informal meeting on Monday, during which they agreed on the need to select a head of the assembly and two deputy chiefs within a week, according to Salah Jawooda, an independent member from the eastern city of Benghazi.

A committee will also be chosen to write the General National Congress's internal procedural rules, Jawooda said.

During Monday's informal gathering, several names were mooted as possible parliament speakers, including two prominent opponents of the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, Mohammed al-Megarief and Idriss Abu Fayed, assembly member Hussein al-Ansari said.

Libyans voted last month in their first free election since a popular uprising last year escalated into a civil war that ousted the regime of now-slain dictator Gaddafi.

They elected a legislative assembly of party and independent representatives whose chief task is to appoint an interim government and steer Libya until new elections can be held on the basis of a constitution to be drafted by a constituent authority of 60 members.

Coalition

The transition comes against the backdrop of heightened security problems both in Benghazi and in the capital, where a car exploded during a marketplace gun battle on Monday.

Of the 200 assembly members, the lion's share of seats have been set aside for individual candidates whose loyalties and ideologies remain unclear but who are being wooed by various blocs.

Out of the parties, which hold 80 of the 200 seats, the liberal coalition of 2011 wartime premier Mahmud Jibril performed best, securing 39 seats on its own.

Jibril's National Forces Alliance also counts on the support of a centrist party led by Ali Tarhuni, who held several key posts during last year's revolt. It obtained two seats in the congress.

The Justice and Construction Party, launched by Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, came second with 17 seats. But its leader, Mohammed Sawan, says the party can even the score by bringing independent candidates to its side.

Whether two or three major forces emerge in the congress, decisions in the assembly require a two-thirds majority to pass, making co-operation between all players necessary to avoid gridlock in a delicate transition.

Jawooda dismissed suggestions that a new government could be in place before the Eid al-Fitr festival that follows Ramadan, which is due to conclude in around 10 days.

"It is premature to discuss this now," he told AFP.

The NTC was the political arm of the rebellion that toppled Gaddafi, and officially assumed power after the regime was overthrown.

Read more on:    mustafa abdel jalil  |  libya  |  north africa
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