Libyans at odds over post-Gaddafi charter

2013-01-07 12:33

Tripoli - Libyans paid with their lives to end the 42-year dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi, but nearly 15 months after he was killed by rebels they remain at odds over a democratic constitution to replace it.

There is not even consensus on who should draw up the charter. Some want the 200-member General National Congress elected in July to appoint a panel to carry out the task. Others want fresh elections to a constitutional convention.

The GNC came to power with a mandate to appoint a government and oversee the drawing up of a new constitution, but the mechanics of that process remain the subject of intense debate.

GNC chief Mohammed Megaryef told civil society groups in December that the assembly would make its decision after broad consultations with the public, without setting a time frame for the process.

He recalled that the provisional constitution, as amended just days before the GNC's election in a bid to head off a federalist boycott, stipulates that the charter should be drawn up by an elected convention with equal representation for each of the three historic regions, Tripolitania, the Fezzan and Cyrenaica.

Abu Baker Bueira, a leading pro-federalism personality, said his camp wanted a qualified committee to be elected directly by the people in free and fair elections.

"We don't know how far we'll go but we are against the notion of selecting those people by appointment," he told AFP.

National dialogue

There are no members of the federalist movement in the congress because they boycotted the last election, but many Libyans support the idea of a decentralised system of government.

"Before deciding one way or the other, the assembly determined that there should be a national dialogue... and whatever the decision, we hope to do this transparently, taking into consideration the citizens' opinion" Megaryef said.

The International Crisis Group's senior analyst for Libya, Claudia Gazzini, said there was wisdom in that approach.

"It is better to take things calmly and consult people rather than rushing the process and alienating public opinion," she said.

But others say it would be folly for Libya to prolong the political and legal uncertainty while it is still struggling to rein in the former rebel militias that are the legacy of the armed uprising that ousted Gaddafi in October 2011.

"I think they are leaning towards an elected committee because they don't want to take responsibility for the results," an international electoral observer based in Tripoli told AFP.

"An elected committee is the least logical - it makes no economic or political sense - but it seems the most likely," added the observer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"By delaying the constitution, you prolong legislative uncertainty because laws are not based on the constitution. Instead you have interim laws and that affects everything, the economy, investment."

Key issues

Hassan Lamin, an independent GNC member from the city of Misrata, insisted that the assembly should bite the bullet and draw up a new constitution itself as quickly as possible.

"The national assembly is passing laws... and it is neglecting its priority. There is no excuse for this delay," said Lamin, adding that he was considering freezing his membership of the assembly in protest.

Whoever draws up the constitution will have to decide a host of key issues, including not only the system of government but also the country's official language or languages, which could include Berber as well as Arabic, and the status of women and ethnic minorities.

In a country where conservative Muslim values run deep, there is little doubt that Islam will be a major plank of any new charter, but its drafters will have to decide just how big.

"There is broad consensus that the new constitution should draw heavily from Islamic sharia law, but also consensus on the need to avoid extremism," said the Washington-based National Democratic Institute.

  • Jeremy - 2013-01-07 12:52

    It appears to me that the so-called "Arab Spring" has highlighted just why all those countries were run by dictators in the first place. Basically, they just don't do democracy very well - and it appears the only way they could be run reasonably effectively was by a dictator with an iron fist! Seriously, have any of them shown any real sign of democratic and economic stability since the uprisings?

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2013-01-07 18:58

      . What a load of rubbish !!! You want to say that a people would vote for a dictatorship !!!!!! It is just your ignorance, that you don't understand what tyranny is about. Dictators/terrorists can ONLY survive, by destroying EVERYTHING related to a democracy and to ANY accountability !!! Like this psychopathic MONSTER gaddafi, he destroyed the independence of the judiciary, where it no longer protected the people, but the dictatorship!! The security forces, the police and the military, no longer protect the population , but the thugs in power!! These are some of the pillars of democracy. For anyone to suggest, that after one throws these criminals out, that democracy will just take its place, is INSANE!!!!!!

  • mnbain - 2013-01-07 13:02

    Highest Standard of living in Africa according to the UN prior to the NATO backed takeover, that must be falling pretty rapidly.

  • mandla.dlamini.524 - 2013-01-07 14:19

    It clearly shows that the nato coup in lybia was a mess, the world must look again to this useless wars ignited by america and their cousin who are blood thirsty all time, for oil, mineral and etc.the truth shall set you free. beware of these ongoing warmongerers who want to steal others countries wealth by misleading the world.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2013-01-07 19:14

      . Mandla, If you want to spew out somew anti Western crap, go ahead , but don't talk garbage!!!!!! "" steal other countries wealth''!!!!!! Don't be so confused and rather childish!! The Americans NEVER had any oil from Libya, NEVER EVER !!! Not before their popular uprising, nr after !!! Europe, (Italy and France) today take less oil from Libya than BEFORE their revolutiuon!! The ONLY country who benefited , what this country's wealth concerns, was China !!!!11 Go and find some other silly and childish conspiracy to put the USA in a bad light !!!!!!

      Demetrius.Syriopoulos - 2013-01-08 11:53

      Anthony, so, the US had no benefit from the fall of Gadaffi? think again. who was it that sold all the weapons? who is now selling the "know how" to build a democracy? who is now going to supply all these America cars? who will supply the American "technology"?

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