Libya moves a step closer to new post-Gaddafi constitution

Reuters News

7/16/2013 2:09:44 PM - Reuters News

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's national assembly passed a law on Tuesday providing for the election of a committee to draft a new constitution following the overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

The 60 members of the constitutional committee will be elected by popular vote, and will have 120 days to draft the charter, lawmakers said.

They will be divided equally between Libya's three regions: Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east and Fezzan in the south. The model resembles the committee that drafted Libya's pre-Gaddafi constitution, implemented when it became an independent state in 1951.

Libya desperately needs a viable government and system of rule so that it can focus on reconstruction and on healing the divisions opened up by the 2011 war that toppled Gaddafi.

Those who will draft the constitution will need to take into account political and tribal rivalries and calls for more autonomy in the east when deciding what political system Libya will adopt. Their draft will be put to a referendum.

Armed violence and lawlessness caused in part by the continuing power of former rebel militias and the ineffectiveness of state security forces has hobbled governance in wide areas of the oil-producing state.

Attempts to write a new constitution have been repeatedly delayed because of political infighting within the General National Congress (GNC), which was elected for an 18-month term last July in Libya's first free election in nearly 50 years.

Most GNC members are civilian professionals or former exiled opposition members with little or no political experience or knowledge of how to run a government.

Gaddafi ostensibly ruled Libya by a bizarre set of laws drawn up by him in his Green Book, although in practice he and his family ran a totalitarian state where no coherent political opposition was tolerated and rival tribes were bought off or played off against each other.

On the constitutional committee, six seats will be reserved for women and another six will be given to members of the Amazigh (Berber), Tibu and Tuareg communities. Candidates will stand as individuals, not representing political parties, officials said.

Omar Hmaidan, spokesman of the GNC, said the committee would be based in the town of Baida. The election date has yet to be announced but it is expected to take six months to organize.

One congress member said the main criteria for candidates were that they must be at least 25 and hold no passport other than a Libyan one.

Separately, GNC deputy chairman Giuma Attaigha said on Tuesday that he was resigning for personal reasons.

(Reporting by Ghaith Shennib and Feras Bosalum; Writing by Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by Kevin Liffey)