The coastal areas of Libya were part of the Ottoman Empire for several hundred years before the Islamic Sanusiya movement formed in the nineteenth century and became the major pole of resistance to the Italians, whose conquest began in 1911. It was not until the 1930s, however, under Mussolini, that the Italians completed their conquest of Libya with very repressive policies to solidify their control. Resistance to them ended with the capture, trial, and hanging of Omar Mukhtar, the leader of the resistance, while the head of the Sanusiya order took refuge in Egypt under British protection. Italian colonial policy consisted of heavy subsidies to Italian colonists, whose numbers had reached 110,000 by 1940. During World War II (1939–45), Libya was a major battleground between British, German, and Italian armies. After the war, due to much indecision on the part of the victorious Allied powers, the future of Libya was laid at the feet of the United Nations (UN), which voted in 1951 for an independent Libyan monarchy under the Grand Sanusi, Idris, and uniting the three provinces of Cyrenaica, the Fezzan (the vast Saharan central portion of the country), and Tripolitania. The constitutional monarchy existed from 1951 to 1969.
During that period the agreement with the United States and Britain for operation of Wheelus Field, a strategically important military base, and other air bases for Britain, provided the major source of employment for Libya's population. The monarchy was conservative and distrustful of the political process. Political parties were soon banned after its establishment. Women were not granted the right to vote until 1963.
On 1 September 1969, a group of young army officers, influenced by the neighboring Egyptian revolutionary government and doctrines of Jamal Abd Al Nasir, deposed King Idris when he was out of the country for medical treatment and proclaimed a Libyan Arab Republic. The coup was led by Captain Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi.
Qadhafi established a very deliberate policy of change, including closure of Wheelus and the British bases to outside control and various attempts to forge Arab unity pacts and unions with other Arab governments. The 1977 Libyan Constitution incorporates a blend of Islamic and socialist theories espoused in Qadhafi's Green Book and his Third Universal Theory. The direct people's authority constitutes the political order while the social system is governed by the Holy Koran (Quran). Political institutions are represented by people's congresses, committees, trade unions, and vocational syndicates.
Qadhafi is the de facto head of state and ultimate decisionmaker. Nominally, however, Libya is headed by the secretary of the General People's Congress and run by the secretary of the General People's Committee.
The General People's Committee is the executive branch of government, with people's committees acting as ministries. The administration is run by secretaries who are responsible for carrying out government policies. The General People's Congress, on the other hand, is the legislative branch of government. It convenes biannually, and delegates are elected by popular committees and congresses at local and regional levels. Libya has no political parties.