Libya gained independence in December 1951 after being under UN supervision as Italy lost the territory during World War II. Following a military coup in 1969, Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi designed his own political system, the Third Universal Theory, later dubbing the country the ‘Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya’. The system was a combination of socialism and Islam derived in part from tribal practices. Sanctions from the UN isolated Gaddafi from 1992 until 2003, after which the absolute ruler improved its relations with western countries. For instance, Libya appeared as an important but controversial partner for the EU in its dealing with migration issues. Furthermore, Libya served as an important export country for oil, which made up for 65% of its GDP. Libya ranks ninth on the list of countries with the biggest proved reserves of oil.
After almost 42 years under the regime of Gaddafi the people of Libya sought to take over control in their country. Subsequently to the Tunisian uprising, first protests in Libya took off halfway January 2011. On 26 February, the UN Security Council paved the way for foreign intervention. On 20 October 2011, Gaddafi was killed. The civil war ended on 20 November that year. The overthrow and death of Muammar Gaddafi have been followed by continuing political instability, amplified by the weak performance of the Transitional National Council (interim government), rivalries between heavily armed militias, allegations of fraud, and a growing east-west divide. Amnesty International wrote in a report, issued on 5 July 2012, that the post-conflict period has been marked by lawlessness and human rights abuses. However, there has been progress in restoring oil exports and public services. Politically and socially seen, the country is perceived as conservative.
Momentarily, there is no clear political system in Libya. Under Gaddafi’s rule, the political system was designed according to his own personal insights. He was the formal leader of the country, but took no position in the government. There was no real parliament, only a network of small congresses that could make decisions at a local level. However, all decisions should be in line with the views of Gaddafi himself. After Gaddafi’s rule, Libyans could elect a General National Congress (GNC), a transitional government that should eventually hand power to the unicameral Council of Deputies. However, the GNC refused to lay down its mandate, and continued as the New General National Congress (NGNC), nowadays a largely unrecognised rival parliament based in Tripoli. The Council of Deputies is currently seated in Tobruk.
The election of a General National Congress in 2012
In July 2012, a GNC was formed, and it elected Mohammed Magarief of the liberal National Front Party as its chairman. This meant that he would be interim head of state. In October 2012, the liberal politician Ali Zaydan was elected to the post of Prime Minister. Meanwhile, however, violence had sparked again. In September, Islamist militants stormed the American consulate in Benghazi. The Libyan government condemned the attack, and used it as means to disarm several militias that had come into existence during the uprising against the Gaddafi regime. A new law was designed, that banned Gaddafi-era officials from holding public office. Therefore, Magarief resigned and was replaced by Nuri Abu Sahmein, a member of the Berber minority that was discriminated by the Gaddafi regime.
|National Forces Alliance (NFA)||39 seats|
|Justice and Construction Party (JCP)||17 seats|
|National Front Party||3 seats|
|Union Party for Homeland||2 seats|
|Wadi Al-Hayat Gathering||2 seats|
|Central National Current||2 seats|
President of the NGNC (4 August 2014 – current)
Nuri Abu Sahmein has been the President of both the GNC and the NGNC, and therefore de facto head of state, since 25 June 2013. Abusahmain had worked in the assembly President's office, organising sessions among other tasks. He previously studied law and worked in a major petrochemicals plant near his hometown. Abu Sahmein is an independent member of parliament from western Libya and he is from the Berber minority Amazigh that suffered discrimination under Gaddafi´s rule. He is the first President with an Amazigh origin. Abu Sahmein won 96 votes to opponent Al-Sharif al-Wafi’s eighty in a run-off after a first round with nine candidates. The Justice and Construction party, which belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, decided to back Abu Sahmein. After his election, he immediately set up an Islamist armed group, the Libya Revolutionaries Operations Room. It suffered heavy critique from members of the GNC, but is still functioning.
Prime Minister of the Council of Deputies (22 July 2014 – current)
After being nominated Defense Minister in August 2013, Abdullah al-Thani became temporary Prime Minister on 12 March 2014. He nevertheless quitted his post less than one month after his introduction. He declared that threats to his family had incited him to give up. After the election for the Council of Deputies, he was chosen Prime Minister. He was the one who ordered general Khalifa Haftar to attack Tripoli in October 2014. In March 2015, he officially appointed Haftar’s troops as the armed forces of the Council of Deputies in Tobruk.
Ali Zaydan was born in Waddan, a town in central Libya in 1950. He worked as a diplomat in India under Ambassador Muhammad Mughrayef from 1975 until 1982. While in India, he also received a master’s degree in international relations. Both he and Mughrayef defected from the Libyan Embassy in 1980. In exile, he joined the left leaning opposition group, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya in Germany, a group that was established in 1981 by dissidents abroad. In 1989 he became the official spokesman of the Libyan League for Human Rights in Geneva. In total, he spent thirty years in exile. Later Zaydan was a key player in convincing the ex-President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, to support the uprising against Colonel Gadaffi.
Libyan Ground Forces General
Khalifa Haftar is the principle military commander of the armed forces of the Tobruk-seated government. Under the regime of Muammar Gaddafi, he served in the Libyan army. Also, he took part in the coup that brought Gaddafi to power in 1969. He is known for his expertise, having commanded the Libyan army in the Yom Kippur War and his role in the war against Chad. During that war, he was taken prisoner in 1987. After his release in 1990, he lived in the United States for almost two decades. After his return to Libya, he held a major position in the forces which overthrew Gaddafi in 2011. When the GNC refused to give up power in 2014, he was commander of the Libyan Army. He then started Operation Dignity and eventually sided with the Council of Deputies in Tobruk.
Aguila Saleh Issa
President of the Council of Deputies (5 August 2014 – current)
Aguila Saleh Issa is a Libyan jurist and politician. Since August 5 2014, he has been the President of the Council of Deputies. Furthermore, he is a representative of Al Qubbah, a town in the east of the country. In February 2015, Saleh Issa became the victim of an assault by Islamic State when they bombed his residence. However, was not at home at the time. A petrol station and police station were targeted as well. With over forty people dead, it was one of the deadliest attack in Libya since the first civil war ended in 2011.
Former Guide of the Revolution of Libya (1969-2011)
Muammar Gaddafi was born in 1942 ruled Libya between 1969 and 2011, when he was ousted in the Libyan civil war. After his academic training, he joined the military in the Royal Military Academy of Benghazi. The military provided him with a upward social mobility tool.
Taking advantage of King Idris’ growing unpopularity in the 1960s, he and his Free Officiers organised an overthrow of the monarchy, by occupying airports, police depots, radio stations and government offices in the country’s large cities. After abolishing the monarchy, he proclaimed the Libyan Arab Republic and became the country’s leader at 27 year-old.
At the beginning of his leadership he tried to destroy all Western influence from the country, as explained in his Green Book, which explains the problems with liberalism and capitalism. Nevertheless, he moved closer to the West from the 1990s on, when his power started to be challenged by Islamists.
The Arab Spring accelerated Gaddafi’s downfall : after Tunisia and Egypt, Libya underwent large demonstrations. At the end of March, a NATO coalition began to provide support for the rebel forces in the form of airstrikes and a no-fly zone. When Tripoli fell to rebel forces in late August 2011, it was seen as a major victory for the opposition and a symbolic end for Qaddafi's rule. On October 20, 2011, Libyan officials announced that Muammar al-Qaddafi had died near his hometown of Sirte, Libya.Back to top
Brian Whitaker blogging about early developments
European Council Declaration on Libya, 11 March 2011
EU stance towards Libya
Opinion on the intervention, The Guardian
Italy and the intervention, Taylor & Francis
Imperialist intervention?, Taylor & Francis
End of Libyan civil war, The Guardian
Interactive timeline of Middle East protests, The Guardian
CIA World Factbook
Paper on EU-Libya relation
Latest UN Security Council Resolution
Transition to democracy, 23 May 2012, The Guardian
UN Security Council Resolution 1970
Documents of the Libya Contact Group, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Amnesty International on Libya
Official website Transitional National Council
The Constitutional Declaration, 3 August 2011
Announcement of Declaration, 11 August 2011, tunisialive
Discussion on developments, 22 August 2011, The New York Yimes
Libyan activists demand transparency, The Guardian
Libyan Election Law, 1 February 2012, Middle East Online
High National Election Commission
One year anniversary of February 17 Revolution, Reuters
Preparation of local elections in Misrata, 17 February 2012, Reuters
First Local Council Election, 20 February 2012, BBC
Creation of Cyrenaica Council, 7 March 2012, Libya Herald
Libya bans religious political parties, 25 April 2012, BBC
On registeration for Libya's Election, The Tripoli Post
Pro-federalist protesters storm election offices, 1 July 2012, Libya Herald
Sharia for Libya, says NTC, iafrica.com
Libya’s forgotten elections, Al-Ahram
Nervous Libyans ready for first taste of democracy, Reuters
Questions and Answers, BBC
It’s not pretty, but Libya is on the road to democracy, The National
NTC takes responsibility for constitution from National Conference, 5 July 2012, Libya Herald
Libya since Gadhafi: a timeline, The Daily Star
UNSMIL Statement on elections, 8 July 2012, UN
Libyan preliminary results trickle in, 9 July 2012, Al Jazeera
Update-to-date official Facebook-page, HNEC
Official Final Elections Results, 17 July, The Tripoli Post
Libya’s independents might emerge as third power, The Malta Independent Online
Libya’s Jibril beats Islamist, 17 July, Reuters
Muslim Brotherhood fell ‘below expectations’, The Guardian
Profile of The National Front, Libya Herald
About Dr. Al Magariaf (National Front)
Nouri Abusahmain, Libya Herald, Al Arabiya, Reuters
Ali Zaydan, BBC News, Libya Herald
Mahmoud Jibril, The Guardian, Reuters
Muslim Brotherhood formally launches party, Libya Herald
Mohammed Sawan signals retreat over previous stance towards National Forces Alliance, Libya Herald