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Ten Things Libya Can Learn From Egypt’s Constitution

Bassem Sabry offers lessons for Libya’s constitutional process, based upon Egypt’s experience.
Protesters demonstrate during a pro-federalism rally in Benghazi November 2, 2012. Protesters took to the streets of Benghazi on Friday, demanding autonomous rule for eastern Libya, fairer representation and the re-introduction of the 1951 constitution to establish a federal system. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori (LIBYA - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Libya will hopefully soon begin writing its new constitution. The task, of course, is quite monumental. But compared to Egypt and Tunisia, the two other Arab Spring countries with new constitutions, Libya’s task is made more difficult by the fact that it is embarking on the construction of a modern state almost from scratch, that there is a deep struggle over federalism and centralism, the volatile status of local armed groups, and that there is very little, if any, deeply entrenched historical constitutional literature and culture to anchor the debate upon.

The country had a constitution since 1951 under the monarchy, a short document of 35 articles that brought some codification to the rights of Libyans. When the monarchy was subsequently overthrown in 1969, a constitutional declaration of 37 articles was put in place by the new “revolutionary” regime, a document meant to remain in effect until a new constitution was put in place. However, what Libyans got instead as a constitution was an infamous and horrendous piece of literature written by Moammar Gadhafi called “The Green Book,” consisting of his often ridiculous ramblings on the world and his “Third International Theory.” Finally, in August 2011, the Interim Transitional Council issued a constitutional declaration of yet again 37 articles (which has since been amended) to cover the transitional period. That document, to be sure, has not been without some controversy, but it has relatively functioned thus far.

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