Sunday, 1 April 2012

Libya: Charting a Different Constitutional Course from Egypt

Libya's National Transition Council has made strides in charting a constitutional course already destined for greater legitimacy then their Egyptian neighbors.

NTC adopted a national electoral law 28 February which allocates only 80 of 120 National Assembly seats (to be elected in June) to be elected out of political parties.  The remaining 120 seats will be open for individual election.  In a society where political parties not based on religion or some other pre-existing organization have not had enough time to organize and develop a cohesive ideology, this electoral situation allows for true representation of the people.

It will also allow the constitution crafted by the National Assembly to be more reflective of the people's choice and framed for Libya's political future rather than present.  In this way, the Libyan NTC has charted a course for their country that is vastly different from neighboring Egypt, wherein the parliament was elected solely from political parties.  The fall-out from this decision by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is that the constituent assembly chosen by parliament in recent days has predictably perpetuated the bias and balance of political parties in parliament (perhaps even tipped the balance even more in favor of one particular party or parties), preserving in a permanent document what many are calling a temporary political situation.

Yet the NTC can do even more to prevent current problems in Egypt.  The Egyptian parliament has reserved 50 of 100 seats on the constituent assembly for members of parliament.  Although there may be some who say such representation, as reflective of the people's choice, is appropriate, it allows for dangerous conflicts of interest.  Members of Parliament on the constituent assembly will invariably be tempted to seek to perpetuate their political influence in permanent structures of government.  This will render the constitution more of a brokered power deal than a document worked out with the best interests of the country in mind.  Such a situation, real or perceived, will tarnish the document's legitimacy and make it more likely to be rescinded in the not-too-distant future as political power changes hands.

Libya's NTC can yet prevent a similar situation on the homefront.  NTC's transitional role is to put the country on a good footing for the National Assembly to adopt a new constitution.  Within this mission, it is appropriate (perhaps necessary and proper?) for the NTC to adopt procedural rules for the creation of a new constitution before elections.  These should allow Libya's most pressing national concerns to be discussed and negotiated rather than the interests of political operatives.    

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