The General People's Congress

Libya Table of Contents

The executive system comprising the RCC and the Council of Ministers continued to operate into 1977, with occasional cabinet shuffles. In late 1976, Qadhafi emerged from relative isolation to resume leadership of the RCC. On the seventh anniversary of the Revolution, September 1, 1976, Qadhafi introduced a plan to reorganize the Libyan state. The plan's primary feature was a proposal that a new representative body (the GPC) replace the RCC as the supreme instrument of government. A five-member General Secretariat was created to stand at the apex of the GPC.

The details of the plan were included in the draft Declaration of the Establishment of the People's Authority, adopted by the GPC in extraordinary session on March 2, 1977. The declaration included several basic points: the change in the country's name to the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the establishment of popular direct authority through a system culminating in the GPC, and the assignment of responsibility for defending the homeland to every man and woman through general military training.

The GPC also adopted resolutions that designated Qadhafi as its secretary general; created the General Secretariat of the GPC, which comprised the remaining members of the defunct RCC; and appointed the General People's Committee, which replaced the Council of Ministers, its members now called secretaries rather than ministers. For symbolic reasons, initially no secretary of defense was appointed within the General People's Committee, defense having become the responsibility of all citizens.

Since its formation the GPC has met in ordinary session annually, usually for about two weeks in November or December. Delegates numbered over 1,000, somewhat more than 60 percent of whom were leaders of the ASU basic and municipal popular congresses. Other delegates included the members of the General Secretariat of the GPC and the General People's Committee, leaders of the geographically based zone and municipal people's committees, and representatives from functionally based organizations.

With the RCC and the Council of Ministers abolished, all executive and legislative authority technically was vested in the GPC. The GPC, however, formally delegated most of its important authority to its general secretary and General Secretariat and to the General People's Committee. In its December 1978 session, the GPC authorized the General People's Committee to appoint ambassadors, and the secretary of foreign affairs was authorized to receive the credentials of foreign diplomats. The General People's Committee, in accordance with conditions established at the GPC's December 1978 session and on recommendation of the Secretariat of Interior, awards and cancels Libyan citizenship. The GPC retains the power to select the president and judges of the Supreme Court, the governor and deputy governor of the Central Bank of Libya, the attorney general, and other high officials. The suggestions and advice of the GPC General Secretariat and the General People's Committee probably are decisive regarding such appointments, however. The General Secretariat appoints the members of the General People's Committee.

The GPC has the formal power to declare war, ratify treaties with other countries, and consider general policy plans and their implementation. In these and other functions, however, it is again subject to the advice of the General People's Committee and the supervision of the general secretary and General Secretariat, which make the final decisions. Yet it would be inaccurate to dismiss the GPC as a mere rubber stamp. It has functioned as a clearinghouse and sounding board, receiving the views of the masses (through lower level representative congresses, committees, and functional organizations) and transmitting them to the General Secretariat and General People's Committee. Conversely, it transmits the decisions of the national leadership to the masses, encouraging mass participation in the political system and lending legitimacy to General Secretariat decisions and policies through advice and formal approval. Qadhafi served as secretary general of the GPC until March 1979, at which time he once again formally resigned from all his positions to devote himself to revolutionary action and, in his words, to ensure the "separation of the state from the Revolution."

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress