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Saturday 26 July  

New Libya parties law under fire

Published on 25 April 2012 - 3:00pm
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Libya's first law on political parties since before the four-decade rule of now slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi drew criticism on Wednesday from Islamists and federalists alike.

The legislation issued by the interim government late on Tuesday, Libya's first since 1964, bans groups based on religious, regional or tribal platforms and outlaws foreign funding.

"Political parties and associations should not be built on the basis of regional, tribal or religious affiliation," a member of the National Transitional Council said.

"They cannot be an extension of a political party abroad or receive foreign funding," said Mustafa Landi, a member of the council's legal committee.

Political parties must have a minimum of 250 founding members, while associations need only 100, Landi added.

NTC spokesman Mohammed al-Harizi confirmed that the law had been signed into effect, although its text has yet to be published.

The head of the council's political affairs committee, Fathi Baja, told AFP that the law does not target moderate Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood, but seeks to exclude more radical elements "whose politics exclude others."

But Nizar Kawan, a leading figure in Libya's Muslim Brotherood, condemned the law for its exclusion of more radical groups, such as the Salafist movement.

"We would prefer if Salafists and other radical groups were given a chance to participate in this political experience so that they are initiated into democracy and dialogue, which will help them renounce violence," he said.

The Arab Spring uprisings which swept Libya's neighbours Egypt and Tunisia early last year saw big gains for Islamist parties in subsequent elections.

In Egypt, not only did the Muslim Brotherhood win nearly half the seats in parliament, the Salafists also took another quarter.

Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, which already represents a major political force, has said it will not participate directly in elections but will focus instead on social development.

Its members, however, have been urged to create parties.

One of them was elected early March to lead the Justice and Construction Party which advocates a moderate Islam.

Political organisations of any kind were banned for decades under Kadhafi's iron-fisted rule.

The NTC scrapped legislation outlawing political associations in January.

Dozens of parties have launched since then with the intention of contesting the constituent assembly election that the NTC has pledged to organise by June 19.

The new parties law also conflicts with the ambitions of tribal and civic leaders in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the 2011 uprising against Kadhafi, who want a federal system of governance.

Libya was a federal union under King Idris I from 1951 to 1963, which divided the country into three administrative states -- Cyrenaica in the east, Tripolitania in the west and the Fezzan in the south.

Abu Bakr Baira, spokesman for the Cyrenaica high council which is lobbying for autonomy for the region, said the law was a direct attack on backers of federalism.

"The law prevents diversity of political parties" and "clashes with the achievements of the Libyan revolution," said Baira.

"I hope this law will not be applied and that the people of Libya will be free to choose their own destiny," he added.

Libya's electoral committee warned on April 11 that the new parties law needed to be adopted quickly if the June election was to go ahead as scheduled.

A full 120 of the constituent assembly's seats are reserved for independent candidates with political associations able to contest the remaining 80.

© ANP/AFP
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