Dominique Soguel, AFP
Last updated: 29 July, 2012

Libya’s elected congress due to take power early August

Libya’s General National Congress, which will become the first elected body to rule the oil-rich nation after Moamer Kadhafi’s ouster, is due to take power early August, an official said Sunday.

“August 8 is expected to be the date on which power is transferred from the National Transitional Council to the General National Congress,” said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the outgoing NTC.

Ben Sassi said the handover would be marked by a “symbolic ceremony” and that the 200-seat congress would formally start working a day or two later, when all the members meet for their first session.

An official of the country’s electoral commission said details of the transition were still being hammered out but that the congress’s first meeting was expected around August 9.

Libyans cast ballots on July 7 in the country’s first free elections following a 2011 popular uprising that escalated into a civil war and overthrew the regime of now slain dictator Kadhafi.

They elected a 200-member legislative assembly comprising party and independent representatives, which will replace the NTC and lead the country until fresh elections can be held on the basis of a new constitution.

The electoral commission on July 17 unveiled the full results of the vote for the General National Congress, where the lion-share of seats have been set aside for individual candidates, whose loyalties and ideologies remain unclear.

Out of the parties, which hold just 80 of 200 seats, the liberal coalition of 2011 wartime premier Mahmud Jibril performed best, nailing 39 seats on its own.

Jibril’s National Forces Alliance also counts on the support of centrist party led by Ali Tarhuni, who held several key posts during last year’s revolt, which obtained two seats in the congress.

The Justice and Construction Party, which was launched by Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, came second with 17 seats. But its leader, Mohammed Sawan, says the party can even the score by bringing independent candidates on its side.

The commission is expected to confirm these results in the coming days, marking the closure of what it said would be a two-week appeal period.

Independents hold the key to the balance of power in the incoming assembly and the two rival parties are said to be knocking on their doors in a bid to expand their sphere of influence.

“Everyone is talking to everyone, parties and independents,” said Ben Sassi.

Hailing from a variety of backgrounds — from lawyers to former political prisoners — most independents tuned their campaign messages according to the needs of voters in their local districts rather than espousing a clear ideology.

Some have ties to parties while others are seen as genuine independents.

There have been reports of like-minded individual representatives trying to form an alternative front, separate from Jibril’s alliance and the Islamist bloc.

Whether two or three major forces emerge in the congress, decisions in the assembly require a two-thirds majority to pass, making cooperation between all players necessary to avoid gridlock in a delicate transition.

The chief task of the incoming assembly is to appoint an interim government and steer the country until new elections can be held on the basis of a constitution which is to be drafted by a constituent authority of 60 members.