Libya: towards a new constitution

Libya will elect an assembly on February 20 to draft a constitution intended to advance transition to democracy. The assembly will also attempt to break with the difficulties and political instability the country faces after the overthrow of Gaddafi more than two years ago.

After the exit of Gaddafi an interim government was appointed, which created an interim Constitutional Declaration. These documents provide a framework towards becoming a democratic country. During the transition period rival groups clashed over this, however. This is also visible in current politics: Congress is deadlocked between party a leading nationalist party and its nascent army struggling to assert itself against unruly former rebels, tribal groups and Islamist militants.

Constitutional Assembly
The goal of the General National Congress’ (GNC) president, Nouri Abusahmain, is to reconcile all groups and gain as much support for the upcoming elections as possible. The 60 seats in the constitutional assembly will be divided equally among Libya’s three regions. In the current GNC 34 women are elected, one as an individual candidate and 33 due to special measures. In the current draft proposal all candidates will stand as individuals, which makes it highly unlikely that a female candidate will be elected. The UN therefore calls for rules to secure that a sufficient number of women are elected. The assembly will then have to finish the constitution within 120 days. After the draft is completed it will be submitted to a referendum. If the draft is approved by the Libyan people, new parliamentary elections will be held in late 2014.

Although this sounds very promising the drafting process could be disrupted by different parties. Congress itself has already delayed the deadline for constitutional drafting in the past and at the same time extended its interim mandate with another year.

Third parties, like tribal, regional and ethnic interest groups, play a role as well. They are looking for influence in the current government and will continue to do so. Lawmakers from the Berber ethnic group for example have already called for an elections boycott. This group contains 20% of Libya’s 6 million population.

Cooperation is needed
Human Rights Watch World Report stated that Libya’s interim government faced multiple challenges in 2013: “Myriad armed groups controlled security in many parts of the country, thousands of detainees remained in government and militia-controlled detention facilities without access to justice, and rampant ill-treatment and deaths in custody persisted. Forced displacement of tens of thousands of people from the town of Tawergha by militias from nearby Misrata had yet to be resolved”. Many analysts believe that to be able to unite the country and face these challenges it is imperative that Libya elects an assembly on February 20 that represents the whole nation.

By Laura Ritter

Sources: Reuters, Libya Herald, The Star, CNS, Human Righs Watch

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