Libya - Government

The Libyan Arab Republic was established on 1 September 1969, and a new constitution was announced by the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) on 11 December 1969. The constitution, which has been effectively superseded by the principles of Qadhafi's "Green Book," proclaimed Libya to be "an Arab, democratic, and free Republic which constitutes part of the Arab nation and whose objective is comprehensive Arab unity." Supreme authority rested with the 12-member RCC, which appointed both the prime minister and cabinet. Qadhafi, as chairman of the RCC, was the effective head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. In March 1977, the nation's name was changed to the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, and the "authority of the people" was proclaimed by a newly convened General People's Congress (GPC). The people theoretically exercise their authority through a system of people's congresses and committees. At the top of this system is the 760-member GPC, which replaced the RCC as the supreme instrument of government. All executive and legislative authority is vested in the GPC, but it meets for only two weeks a year and delegates most of its authority to its own Secretariat and to the General People's Committee, in effect the cabinet, which is appointed by the Secretariat. GPC members serve 3-year terms. Voting for local people's congresses, whose elected members select members of the GPC, is mandatory for those over 18. In 1979, Qadhafi gave up his official post as secretary-general of the GPC to become a "private citizen." As "Leader of the Revolution," however, he remains the de facto head of state. He also remains the commander of the armed forces and virtually all power is concentrated in him and his close advisers. In 1988, public discontent with shortages led Qadhafi to limit the authority of revolutionary committees, release many political prisoners, and remove restrictions on foreign travel and private enterprise.

In the 1990s Qadhafi saw his regime challenged by discontented military personnel and Islamist groups. Several assassination attempts have been reported, both within the military and from armed Islamist groups. His intolerance of opposition has continued. In March 1997 the GPC adopted the Charter of Honor, imposing collective punishment on Libyans convicted of crimes of disorder, i.e. sabotage, drug and arms trafficking and "terrorists, criminals, saboteurs and heretics." The charter is clearly aimed at opponents of the regime.

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