On 7 July 2012, the National Transitional Council (NTC), the main force opposed to Gaddafi, transferred its power to the elected General National Congress (GNC). This institution, based in Tripoli, is tasked with maintaining security and ensuring economic development but also and mainly with producing a constitution and laying the groundwork for future parliamentary elections. However, the GNC later voted that the constitution would be written by a Constitutional Assembly Committee, elected on 20 February 2014. The committee is composed of 20 members each from Libya’s three regions (Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan). The work of the committee is expected to last from March to July 2014; the drafted constitution will then be up for vote in a referendum.
How legitimate is the GNC?
Theoretically, it should be the key-actor of the transition in Libya but that is far from being true. Indeed, this centralised power has to face the multiple interests of the different militias and is unable to unify the majority of Libyans. Moreover, its security forces consist largely of militias and their loyalty to the State is therefore impossible to verify. An illustration of that is that the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room, a militia reporting to the Interior Ministry and whose role was to protect the Libyan capital, kidnapped the Prime Minister Ali Zeidan himself in October 2013.
Is the GNC representative of the Libyan population?
This is difficult to conclude. Some believe in the credibility of the General National Congress, while others turn to militias because they feel these forces can better protect them and represent their interests. This is in important part due to the failure of the GNC to provide security throughout Libya, which can be attributed in part to the strength of local militias and because the GNC’s affiliated bodies consist of old militias or young people with little experience. In addition, the GNC faced public outcry in February when it decided to extend its mandate by another year. The divide among the population seems to become clear through the low rate of participation in the election of the Constitutional Committee (around 37% of the voting population): not all people feel the need to get involved in such a democratic moment.
Libya currently has no Prime Minister after the resignation of Al Thinni, the successor of Ali Zeidan. However, the new Constitution continues to be drafted by the elected committee and campaigns of society sensitisation have been launched to this purpose, as a low voter turnout for the referendum could seriously undermine the committee’s legitimacy. It is for now difficult to imagine that the GNC will succeed in unifying the population, especially as some Eastern armed groups are selling oil and looking for increased independence.