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Libya's largest parliamentary group boycotts congress

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 7 Jan 2013 18:49 GMT
Author: Reuters
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TRIPOLI, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Libya's largest parliamentary coalition boycotted the national congress for a second day on Monday, protesting at delays in forming a committee to draft the country's first constitution, a spokesman said Monday.

The National Forces Alliance (NFA) bloc, formed last year by liberal war-time leader Mahmoud Jibril and holding 39 of the 80 seats in parliament, walked out of the session late on Sunday and did not show up for the meeting on Monday.

"We have withdrawn from the congress meetings because it has not met its duties in making the constitution a reality," bloc spokesman Tawfiq Breik told Reuters.

Libya desperately needs a viable government and system of rule so that it can focus on reconstruction and on healing the divisions opened up by the war that toppled Muammar Gaddafi.

It has never had a constitution, being ruled by a bizarre set of laws drawn up by Gaddafi in his Green Book.

The new charter is to be drawn up by 60 members elected by Libyans, but the election is still only a distant promise rather than a near prospect because of internal squabbling and administrative delays.

The majority of parliamentarians in Libya's General National Congress are civilian professionals and former exiled opposition members with little or no political experience or knowledge of how to run a government.

Congressional sessions usually last for hours with members making vague speeches, asking off-topic questions, or arguing personal drama.

Last month, tempers rose over a disagreement and one member walked across the congress and punched another member.

Breik said that according to congress's mandate, elections to vote for the committee to draft the constitution should have already been under way.

"Instead now we are still debating in congress if we should elect the constitutional committee or to appoint them," he said.

Breik said the NFA bloc was also protesting at a lack of transparency in how parliamentary sessions set agendas; delays in proper security for congress members after their building was attacked by protesters several times last year; and the failure to adopt procedural rules for the congressional sessions.

"We don't want to hinder the work of the congress, but if it continues in this way the congress's work won't be advancing anyway," Breik said. (Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing by Hadeel Al-Shalchi; Editing by Alison Williams)

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