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CRS: Libya: Transition and U.S. Policy

Author: Christopher M. Blanchard
August 9, 2012

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This report explains the current situation of Libya's post-conflict transition, the challenges facing the interim Libyan leadership, and the current issues that Congress must debate.

Libya's post-conflict transition is underway, as Libyans work to consolidate change from the 40-year dictatorship of Muammar al Qadhafi to a representative government based on democratic and Islamic principles. On July 7, 2012, Libyan voters chose 200 members of a General National Congress (GNC) in the country's first nationwide election in nearly 50 years. The GNC will oversee national government affairs, appoint a new cabinet, and determine the method for selecting members of a drafting committee to prepare a new constitution. If voters approve a constitution in a national referendum, then new elections are to be held by mid-2013, bringing a nearly two-year transition process to a close.

In the wake of the July election, Libya's interim leaders remain answerable to a wide range of locally and regionally organized activists, locally elected and appointed committees, prominent personalities, tribes, militias, and civil society groups seeking to shape the transition and safeguard the revolution's achievements. The shift from an appointed interim government to elected leaders may provide the government more democratic legitimacy and better enable it to make decisions in key areas, such as security, fiscal affairs, and post-conflict justice and reconciliation. Libyans are debating the proper balance of local, regional, and national authority and the proper role for Islam in political and social life.

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