Libyan Constitutionality and Sovereignty post-Qadhafi: the Islamist, Regionalist, and Amazigh challenges
Youssef Sawani and I attack the question of the struggle for the post-Qadhafi future from a novel angle in our long overdue JNAS article. In it we trace how various groups have contested the NTC’s and GNC’s attempts to ‘delimit the rules of the political game’ by critiquing the provisions of the Temporary Constitutional Declaration (TCD). What emerges is a nuanced presentation — relying heavily on Arabic source material– of the fight for legitimacy, sovereignty, and control of the moral high ground in the new Libya. We cannot promise it will be easy or uplifting reading, but it should be enlightening. To access the article via the Taylor and Francis website click here.
Since the overthrow of Muammar Qadhafi, Libya’s political and security institutions have suffered from a power vacuum. The interim governments’ absence of ‘real power’ has been mirrored by their corresponding absence of ‘abstract authority’. Both dynamics are indicative of an ongoing struggle over what constitutes sovereign, legitimate authority in post-Qadhafi Libya. From the National Transitional Council’s (NTC’s) inception until its handover of power, it claimed to possess ‘temporary’ sovereign authority – sufficient to administer Libya and define the rules of the post-Qadhafi transitional phase. Throughout the protracted constitutional drafting process, the country has been ‘governed’ according to the Temporary Constitutional Declaration (TCD)
issued by the NTC in August 2011. Amendments to – and popular contestation of – the TCD have constrained Libya’s political evolution, impeded the constitutional drafting process, and impinged upon the legitimacy of the General National Congress (GNC)– the NTC’s successor body. This article will illustrate how and why the TCD was contested by Islamists, federalists,
and certain Berber groups. Our use of copious Arabic primary source material allows the views of these groups to be presented in their own words. The NTC’s responses to its challengers reveal a distinct pattern: it attempted to incorporate Islamists into its framework, it appeased Cyrenaican federalists, and it ignored the grievances of Berber activists. The implications of this
highly unbalanced strategy remain at the core of Libya’s present instability and the GNC’s inability to stand up against its myriad challengers.