The Arab Socialist Union

Libya Table of Contents

The 1971 creation of the ASU, an imitation of the Egyptian counterpart of the same name, marked the first stage in the drive to modify subnational government. The ASU was envisioned as the direct link between the people and the government (and particularly the RCC). Its purpose was to provide the masses with a system that allowed for participation and representation (thus fostering national unity), commitment to the revolution, and loyalty to the RCC) but that could be carefully directed by the RCC. Resolutions passed by ASU organs required RCC decrees or orders for implementation, and the RCC could annul any ASU decision at any level and dissolve any ASU organ. As chairman of the RCC, Qadhafi became president of the ASU.

The ASU was organized on three tiers: at the basic (or local) level, the governorate level, and the national level. Membership was based on both geography (or residence) and function (workplaces, universities, and government bureaucracies). ASU units at both the basic and governorate level were composed of two elements, the conference and the committee. All local and functional ASU members within a basic area constituted the Basic Conference. The Basic Committee, which functioned as the conference's executive, comprised ten members elected by and from the conference. The committee in turn elected its own secretariat and appointed special subcommittees to investigate matters and suggest policies of local interest. The Governorate Conference consisted of two or more representatives elected from each basic unit, the number of representatives depending on the size of the basic unit's membership. The Governorate Committee consisted of twenty members elected by and from conference members. The committee also elected its secretariat and appointed research subcommittees. ASU university units were equivalent to, and organized in the same manner as, ASU governorate units.

The ASU unit at the national level was the National Congress (sometimes seen as National Conference), an early version of the GPC. It comprised ten, fourteen, or twenty representatives from each ASU governorate unit (depending on the size of the membership of that unit). The National Congress also included members of the RCC and Council of Ministers and delegates from functional organizations.

From its inception, Libyan officials stressed that the ASU was not a political party; rather, it was a mass organization that formed an activist alliance comprising members of various social forces within the population (laborers, farmers, soldiers, women, and so forth) that were committed to the principles of the revolution. Emphasis was placed on "toilers," or workers--initially farmers and laborers--who were to constitute at least half of the membership of all ASU units at all levels. The worker category was later expanded to include--along with farmers and laborers-- professionals, artisans, employees, traders, and students. Intellectuals and nonexploitive capitalists were considered workers at one time but were later excluded. Membership in the ASU was open to anyone from the worker categories who was over eighteen years of age, in good legal standing, of sound mental health, and not a member of the former royal family or associated with the defunct monarchical government. Exceptions in these cases could be granted by the RCC. By the time of the first ASU National Congress in 1972, membership was reported to include over 300,000 of some 1 million eligible persons.

A second stage in subnational government revision occurred with the passage of several laws in 1972. Through these laws the districts and subdistricts were abolished, reducing administrative subdivisions to the governorate and the municipality. (Municipalities could be subdivided into branches and other units, but these were secondary, created only when needed on a municipal council's recommendation to the prime minister.) Certain ministerial prerogatives in administration, finance, and local civil service matters were transferred to the governors and mayors. The functions of the Ministry of Municipalities were reabsorbed by the Ministry of Interior, and the prime minister supervised a system of representative's councils at the governorate and municipal levels, councils that were influenced significantly by the ASU.

Governorate and municipal councils were concerned primarily with implementing national policies and drafting plans and regulations pertaining to the provision of regular and emergency health, education, social welfare, and transportation services, as well as with undertaking development and agricultural improvement projects. A governorate had primary authority over these functions when they crossed municipal boundaries.

Governorate councils comprised both appointed and elected seats. The prime minister appointed ASU members, upon the governor's advice and the ASU's recommendation, to fill ten seats. The popular elections to fill the other seats were supervised by the ASU. The councils also included the area directors of health, education, and other services. Municipal councils were composed of six appointed ASU members, other members of the ASU who were elected through ASU-supervised popular elections, and municipal service administrators. All council decisions were sent to the prime minister, who could reject them. If the council persisted, the matter would be sent to the Council of Ministers for final review. The prime minister also was empowered to dissolve councils.

More about the Government of Libya.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress