By Sami Zaptia.
Tripoli, 22 July:
In a telephone interview on the Libya Alhurra satellite TV channel last night, the head of the . . .[restrict]National Transitional Council (NTC), Mustafa Abdul Jalil, defended the decision of the NTC in changing the rules set out in the Transitional Constitutional Declaration for selecting the ‘Committee of 60’ at the last minute just before the General National Congress Elections (GNC).
On the eve of elections, on Thursday 5th July, 2 days before the 7th July elections, the NTC announced Constitutional Amendment No. 3 (2012) to the Transitional Constitutional Declaration.
The amendment specifies that the so-called ‘Committee of 60’ shall be chosen by direct and free elections as opposed to it either being chosen from within the GNC or chosen from without the GNC by the GNC.
The amendment attracted criticism to the NTC and its head Mustafa Abdul Jalil from both the public at large as well as candidates for the GNC elections.
Abdul Jalil referring to Federalist demands and the threat to boycott the GNC elections by some in the east of Libya, felt that the decision was not partisan, but ‘in the interest of the unity of the nation’.
Interpreting what Abdul Jalil said, it seems that he and the NTC were seriously fearful that a large number of people in the east of Libya would boycott the elections raising questions about the representativeness of the GNC elections and the legitimacy of the GNC. This by extension would have raised the same questions of legitimacy regarding the constitution’s drafting ‘Committee of 60’, and the constitution itself.
The ‘Committee of 60’ will be a committee made up of 60 people chosen (or now maybe elected?) to draft Libya’s new constitution. In the Transitional Constitutional Declaration it had specified that it would be chosen by the GNC on regional bases, with 20 representing Western Libya (old Tripolitania), 20 representing Eastern Libya (old Cyrenaica) and 20 representing the South (the old Fezzan).
It is not surprising that there was a negative reaction to this decision to amend the mechanism for choosing the ‘Committee of 60’. Firstly, a while back, Abdul Jalil had indicated that every 20 members of the ‘Committee of 60’ would be chosen by their relevant regional GNC members.
Meaning that GNC members from the West would choose the 20 members of the ‘Committee of 60’ for the West, the GNC members from the East would choose the 20 members of the ‘Committee of 60’ for the East and the GNC members from the South would choose their 20 representatives of the ‘Committee of 60’ for the South.
The NTC and Mustafa Abdul Jalil were accused of panicking and pandering to particular political forces by amending the mechanism for choosing the ‘Committee of 60’. Some political movements accused the NTC of pandering to other particular political persuasions.
They were particularly criticized for their timing, passing the amendment at the eleventh hour just before the GNC elections, thereby leaving no time for debate or discussion. Critics felt that the NTC had plenty of time to, and should have passed this amendment much earlier – rather than sneaking it through on the Thursday before Saturday’s elections.
Morally, some critics felt that the NTC was in the handover phase of their political life, and that passing such a major constitutional amendment in ‘extra time’, so to speak, was not best practice. Equally, it was felt that the NTC was handing the GNC a poison chalice by forcing another election on them within their short one-year lifespan.
Asked how he thought the GNC would react to this last minute change of the rules for selecting the ‘Committee of 60’ and whether the GNC was bound by the NTC decision, Abdul Jalil made it clear that in his mind, the GNC has full sovereignty and supremacy and was free to do as it so fit.
Interpreting what Abdul Jalil was saying in the telephone interview, he gave the strong impression that he did not feel that the GNC, an elected body, was legally bound by prior decisions taken by the NTC, an unelected body.
Asked by the interviewer when he and the NTC would actually hand over power to the GNC, Abdul Jalil emphasized that they ‘will not stay a minute longer than the moment the GNC convenes’.
In the Transitional Constitutional Declaration of 3 August 2011, which is in effect the social contract that has governed the relationship between the Libyan people and their rulers since the February 17 Revolution, the NTC is legally obliged to hand over its responsibilities to the GNC as soon as it officially convenes.
This is expected to happen after the 14 day appeals window had passed from the day of the announcement of the final election count. The final election count was announced on 17 July and so the GNC is expected to convene any day after 1 August.
However, there may be a slight delay as there is talk of organizing a hand over ceremony. On the other hand, some GNC members-elect, such as the independent Salah Jaouda of Benghazi have suggested that they expect the NTC to handover transparent financial reports prior to passing on the responsibility to the GNC.
It may not be as straight forward as it is meant to be. Salah Jouda, for one, was keen that there was transparency in the accounts of the NTC and was not keen that the GNC is left holding the baby with regards to untransparent accounting.
Abdul Jalil also indicated that it has been a hard task running Libya and made no secret of his readiness to handover. ‘We have made mistakes’, he admitted, ‘But everything we did was meant to be for the interest of Libya. It is time to pass on the chance to someone else’, he concluded. [/restrict]