Subnational Government and Administration

Libya Table of Contents

Because of continuing historical and tribal divisiveness, the federation was replaced with a unitary system in 1963, and the three subnational provinces were replaced by ten governorates. The governorates were subdivided into districts (mutasarrifiyat; sing., mutasarrifiyah), each of which was further subdivided into subdistricts (mudiriyat; sing., mudiriyah). Executive heads of these geographical units included the governor (muhaafiz), district chief (mutasarrif), and subdistrict chief (mudir), respectively. Large cities, such as Tripoli and Benghazi, were organized as municipalities, headed by mayors, and subdivided into wards.

All subnational executive administrators were appointed by royal authority on recommendation of the minister of interior and approved by the Council of Ministers. Their appointment frequently was based on tribal and subtribal considerations as well as family prestige derived from the family's historical importance, religious standing and leadership, and wealth. Thus, much of the historical divisiveness that the switch from a federal to a unitary system was designed to overcome was perpetuated in the frequent appointment of members of regional and local elite families as subnational administrators.

Interested in minimizing tribal and regional differences and in encouraging mass participation in the political system, the RCC began modifying the subnational government structure soon after the 1969 revolution. Laws implemented in 1970 and 1971 established the Ministry of Local Government (which assumed some of the duties formerly exercised by the Ministry of Interior), gave local authorities more power to implement policies of the central (national) government, and redesignated some of the names and boundaries of the ten governorates. Selection of chief executives in the governorates, districts, subdistricts, and municipalities remained within the purview of the central government, appointments being made by the RCC on the recommendation of the minister of interior. Lower level administrators were required to meet standardized civil service qualifications.

For the most part, subnational government continued to function as a hierarchical system of administrative links with the central government rather than as a vehicle for popular representation or participation. The RCC as a whole and Qadhafi in particular remained highly critical of inefficient bureaucracy, the lack of commitment to the Revolution displayed by many civil servants and other subnational government functionaries, and the reluctance or inability of the population to participate in the political system. Between 1971 and 1987, subnational government and administration were developed in five major stages in order to correct these deficiencies.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress