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Libyan interim parliament extends mandate by year

December 23, 2013

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) — Libya’s interim parliament voted Monday to extend the country’s post-revolutionary transition, giving itself an extra year to oversee the writing of a constitution and the holding of new elections, members said.

Islamist lawmaker Mohammed Sammoud says that 102 members out of 120 who attended the session voted in favor of the new transition plan, setting a deadline for drafting the country’s constitution to August. That will be followed by elections, with a new parliament to be handed power by Dec. 24, 2014.

According to the old timetable, the current interim parliament should have elected a constituent panel, drafted the constitution, held a referendum on it and then called for parliamentary elections before February.

The decision is expected to spark anger among many Libyans. Demonstrations in recent months have denounced what they see as poor performance of the parliament and its government.

Libya is undergoing a rocky transition after the downfall of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi who left the country with no effective court system and a weakened army and police. Former rebels who fought Gadhafi’s forces have quickly filled up the security vacuum, becoming powerful militias who exert pressure on the government and parliament.

Since its election last year, the interim parliament has been deadlocked. One bloc dominated by Islamists and another by non-Islamists control roughly equal numbers of votes. This split has made it difficult to pass key legislation, including a law governing the 60-member constituent panel tasked to draft the constitution.

Many Libyans have criticized the parliament for failing to come up with an effective policy to rein in powerful militias. It has also sparked controversy by passing a divisive law that banned those who held office under Gadhafi from holding key positions in new government. That law was passed virtually under gunpoint when militias imposed a blockade around key ministries.

Proponents of the extended transition, however, say the alternative is a power vacuum when the current parliament’s term expires.

“Fec. 7 is due date for the parliament to finish its mandate but this could led to chaos,” said lawmaker Fatma al-Majbari.

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