In early 1970s, Muammar Gaddafi pioneered a new system of governance called the Jamahiriya, based on the principles of direct participatory democracy, a more direct form of democracy than the representative parliamentary democracy used in much of the world today. He outlined his political philosophy in The Green Book (1975), where he rejected modern representative democracy based on electing representatives, and also criticized capitalism. Instead, the book proposed a type of direct democracy overseen by the General People's Committee which allow direct political participation for all adult citizens. The system was inspired by early Islamic democracy as well as elements of ancient Athenian democracy.

This Jamahiriya direct democracy system was used in Libya from 1977 up until 2011, when it came to an end during the Libyan Civil War and the succeeding National Transitional Council announced its intention to replace it with a more traditional representative democracy that is compatible with Sharia.


Jamahiriya (Arabic: جماهيريةjamāhīriyyah) is an Arabic term generally translated as "state of the masses"; Lisa Anderson [1]has suggested "peopledom" or "state of the masses" as a reasonable approximations of the meaning of the term as intended by Gaddafi. The term does not occur in this sense in Muammar al-Gaddafi's Green Book of 1975. The nisba-adjective Arabic: جماهيرية‎ ("mass-, "of the masses") occurs only in the third part, published in 1981, in the phrase إن الحركات التاريخية هي الحركات الجماهيرية , translated in the English edition as "Historic movements are mass movements".

The word jamāhīriyyah was derived from jumhūriyyah, which is the usual Arabic translation of "republic". It was coined by changing the component jumhūr — "public" — to its plural form, jamāhīr — "the masses". Thus, it is similar to the term People's Republic.

Direct democracy vs representative democracyEdit

Direct democracy is a form of democracy in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Participatory democracy is a process emphasizing the broad participation of constituents in the direction and operation of political systems. This was the form of governance used by the former Libyan Arab Jamahiriya up until 2011. This Jamahiriya system of direct demoracy was inspired by early Islamic democracy as well as elements of ancient Athenian democracy.

In contrast, representative democracy is a variety of democracy founded on the principle of elected people representing a group of people, as opposed to direct democracy. A parliamentary system is a system of democratic government in which the ministers of the Executive Branch derive their legitimacy from and are accountable to a Legislature or parliament; the Executive and Legislative branches are interconnected. This is the traditional form of democracy most common in much of the world today (particularly the Western world), and the form of governance being implemented by the current National Transitional Council in Libya.

Transition to the Jamahiriya (1973–1977)Edit

The "remaking of Libyan society" contained in Gaddafi's ideological visions began to be put into practice in 1973 with a so-called cultural or popular revolution. This "revolution" was designed to combat bureaucratic inefficiency, lack of public interest and participation in the subnational governmental system, and problems of national political coordination. In an attempt to instill revolutionary fervor into his compatriots and to involve large numbers of them in political affairs, Gaddafi urged them to challenge traditional authority and to take over and run government organs themselves. The instrument for doing this was the "people's committee." Within a few months, such committees were found all across Libya. They were functionally and geographically based and eventually became responsible for local and regional administration.

People's committees were established in such widely divergent organizations as universities, private business firms, government bureaucracies, and the broadcast media. Geographically based committees were formed at the governorate, municipal, and zone (lowest) levels. Seats on the people's committees at the zone level were filled by direct popular election; members so elected could then be selected for service at higher levels. By mid-1973 estimates of the number of people's committees ranged above 2,000.

In the scope of their administrative and regulatory tasks and the method of their members' selection, the people's committees embodied the concept of direct democracy that Gaddafi propounded in the first volume of The Green Book, which appeared in 1975. The same concept lay behind proposals to create a new political structure composed of "people's congresses." The centerpiece of the new system was the General People's Congress (GPC), a national representative body intended to replace the Revolutionary Command Council (RCC).

Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1977-2011)Edit

On 2 March 1977, Gaddafi stepped down as the de facto ruler and handed power over to the GPC, which adopted the "Declaration of the Establishment of the People's Authority" and proclaimed the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Arabic: ‏الجماهيرية العربية الليبية الشعبية الاشتراكية‎ al-Ǧamāhīriyyat al-ʿArabiyyat al-Lībiyyat aš-Šaʿbiyyat al-Ištirākiyyat). In the official political philosophy of the state, the Jamahiriya system was unique to the country, presented as the materialization of the Third International Theory, proposed by Gaddafi to be applied to the entire Third World. The Libyan Jamahiriya was a direct democracy without any political parties, governed by its populace through local popular councils and communes (named Basic People's Congresses).

Political reformsEdit

The Libyan Arab Jamahiriya initiated a process of reforms, directing funds toward providing education, health care and housing for all. Public education in the country was free and primary education became compulsory for both boys and girls. Medical care was also available to the public at no cost, and the government set itself the task of providing housing to all citizens.[2] Under Gaddafi, per capita income in the country rose to more than US $11,000, the fifth highest in Africa.[3]

Under the Jamahiriya, the country's literacy rate rose to 90%, and welfare systems were introduced that allowed access to free education, free healthcare, and financial assistance for housing. In 2008, the General People's Congress has declared the Great Green Charter of Human Rights of the Jamahiriyan Era.[4] The Great Manmade River was also built to allow free access to fresh water across large parts of the country.[5] In addition, illiteracy and homelessness had been "almost wiped out,"[6] and financial support was provided for university scholarships and employment programs,[7] while the nation as a whole remained debt-free.[8] As a result, Libya's Human Development Index in 2010 was the highest in Africa and greater than that of Saudi Arabia.[5]

In 1988, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya issued the Great Green Document on Human Rights, in which Article 5 established laws that allowed greater freedom of expression. Article 8 of The Code on the Promotion of Freedom stated that "each citizen has the right to express his opinions and ideas openly in People’s Congresses and in all mass media."[9]

In 2010, the Libyan Arab Jamhairiya pointed to how their country is founded on direct people's democracy that guaranteed direct exercise of authority by all citizens through the people's congresses. Citizens were able to express opinions of the congresses on issues related to political, economic, social, and cultural issues. In addition, there were information platforms such as newspapers and TV channels for people to express their opinions through. Libyan authorities also argued that no one in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya suffered from extreme poverty and hunger, and that the government guaranteed a minimum of food and essential needs to people with low incomes. In 2006, an initiative was adopted for providing people with low incomes investment potfolios amounting to $30,000 to be deposited with banks and companies. [10]

In January 2011, the United Nations Human Rights Council published a report analysing the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya's human rights record with input from member nations, most of which (including many European and most Asian, African and South American nations) generally praised the country's progressive efforts in human rights, though some (particularly Australia, France, Israel, Switzerland, and the United States) raised concerns about cases of disappearance and torture, and alleged restrictions on free press; Libya agreed to investigate cases involving disappearance and torture, and to repeal any laws criminalizing political expression or restricting a free independent press, but affirmed that it already had an independent judiciary.[9]

Economic reformsEdit


See also: Economy of Libya, Human rights in Libya, and Women in Libya

Under the Jamahiriya direct democracy state,[11] the country's literacy rate rose from 10% to 90%, life expectancy rose from 57 to 77 years, equal rights were established for women and black people, employment opportunities were established for migrant workers, and welfare systems were introduced that allowed access to free education, free healthcare, and financial assistance for housing.[5] In addition, financial support was provided for university scholarships and employment programs.[12] Gaddafi also initiated development of the Great Manmade River,[5] in order to allow free access to fresh water across large parts of the country.[5] The country was developed without taking any foreign loans, and, as a result, Libya was debt-free.[13]

Despite his role in developing the country,[5][13] critics have accused Gaddafi of concentrating a large part of the country's high gross domestic product on his family and his elites, who allegedly amassed vast fortunes.[14] Many of the business enterprises were allegedly controlled by Gaddafi and his family.[15] Despite the regime providing financial assistance for housing,[5] segments of the population continued to live in poverty, particularly in the eastern parts of the country.[16][17]

When the rising international oil prices began to raise Gaddafi's revenues in the 1970s, Gaddafi spent much of the revenues on arms purchases and on sponsoring his political projects abroad.[18] Gaddafi's relatives adopted lavish lifestyles, including luxurious homes, Hollywood film investments and private parties with American pop stars.[19][20]

The Economy of Libya was centrally planned and followed Gaddafi's socialist ideals. It benefited greatly from revenues from the petroleum sector, which contributed most export earnings and 30% of its GDP. These oil revenues, combined with a small population and by far Africa's highest Education Index gave Libya the highest nominal GDP per capita in Africa. Between 2000 and 2011, Libya recorded favourable growth rates with an estimated 10.6 percent growth of GDP in 2010, the highest of any state in Africa. Gaddafi had promised "a home for all Libyans" and during his rule, new residential areas rose in empty Saharan regions. Entire populations living in mud-brick caravan towns were moved into modern homes with running water, electricity, and satellite TV.[21]

At the time Gaddafi died, some of the worst economic conditions were in the eastern parts of the state.[16][17] 97% of urban dwellers have access to "improved sanitation facilities" in Libya, this was 2% points lower than the OECD average, or 21% points above the world average.[22] In the first fifteen years of Gaddafi rule, the number of doctors per capita increased by seven times, with the number of hospital beds increasing by three times.[23] During Gaddafi's rule, infant mortality rates went from 125 per 1000 live births, about average for Africa at the time, to 15 per 1000, the best rate in Africa.[24] Libyans who could afford it often had to seek medical care in neighboring countries such as Tunisia and Egypt because of lack of decent medical care in Libya.[17][25]

Libyans have described the Great Manmade River, a project initiated by Gaddafi, as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".[26] The Great Manmade River also holds the record as the world's largest irrigation project.[27] Gaddafi also initiated the Libyan National Telescope Project, costing about 10 million euros.[28]

On 4 March 2008, Gaddafi announced his proposal to dissolve the country's existing administrative structure and disburse oil revenue directly to the people. The plan included abolishing all ministries; except those of defence, internal security, and foreign affairs, and departments implementing strategic projects.[29] His reason for this plan was because he believed that the ministries were failing to manage the country’s oil revenues.[30] Gaddafi claimed he was planning to combat corruption in the state by proposing reforms where oil profits are handed out directly to the country's five million people[31] rather than to government bodies, stating that "as long as money is administered by a government body, there would be theft and corruption."[32] Gaddafi urged a sweeping reform of the government bureaucracy, suggesting that most of the cabinet system should be dismantled to "free Libyans from red tape" and "protect the state's budget from corruption." According to Western diplomats, this move appeared to be aimed at putting pressure on the government to speed up reforms.[31] Gaddafi claimed that the ministries were failing to manage the country’s oil revenues,[33] and that his "dream during all these years was to give power and wealth directly to the people."[34]

A national vote on Gaddafi's plan to disband the government and give oil money directly to the people was held in 2009, where Libya's people's congresses, the country's highest authority, voted to delay implementation. The General People's Congress announced that, out of 468 Basic People's Congresses, 64 chose immediate implementation while 251 endorsed implementation "but asked for (it) to be delayed until appropriate measures were put in place." This plan led to dissent from top government officials, who claimed it would "wreak havoc" in the economy by "fanning inflation and spurring capital flight." Gaddafi acknowledged that the scheme, which promised up to 30,000 Libyan dinars ($23,000) annually to about a million of Libya's poorest, may "cause chaos before it brought about prosperity," but claimed that "Do not be afraid to experiment with a new form of government" and that "This plan is to offer a better future for Libya's children."[34][35] Mahmoud Jibril, a former Jamahiriya member who later formed the National Transitional Council, was opposed to Gaddafi's Wealth Redistribution Project where oil revenues would be distributed directly to the Libyan people, an idea that Jibril described as “crazy” in 2010.[36]

In December 2009, Gaddafi personally told government officials that Libya would soon experience a "new political period" and would have elections for important positions such as minister-level roles and the National Security Advisor position (a Prime Minister equivalent). He also promised to include international monitors to ensure fair elections. His speech was said to have caused quite a stir. These elections were planned to coincide with the Jamahiriya's usual periodic elections for members of the Popular Committees, Basic People's Committees, Basic People's Congresses, and General People's Congress, in 2010.[37]

See alsoEdit


  2. Staff. "Housing". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved on 14 August 2011.
  3. "African Countries by GDP Per Capita > GDP Per Capita (most recent) by Country". NationMaster. Retrieved on 24 July 2011.
  4. The Great Green Charter of Human Rights of the Jamahiriyan EraTemplate:Ref-en
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 Azad, Sher (22 October 2011). "Gaddafi and the media". Daily News. Retrieved on 22 October 2011.
  6. Hussein, Mohamed (21 February 2011). "Libya crisis: what role do tribal loyalties play?". Retrieved on 31 October 2011. 
  7. Shimatsu, Yoichi (21 October 2011). "Villain or Hero? Desert Lion Perishes, Leaving West Explosive Legacy". New America Media. Retrieved on 23 October 2011.
  8. "Zimbabwe: Reason Wafavarova - Reverence for Hatred of Democracy". (21 July 2011). Retrieved on 23 October 2011.
  9. 9.0 9.1 "Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: Libyan Arab Jamahiriya". Universal Periodic Review. United Nations Human Rights Council, United Nations General Assembly (4 January 2011). Retrieved on 26 October 2011.
  11. Robbins, James (7 March 2007). "Eyewitness: Dialogue in the desert". Retrieved on 22 October 2011.
  12. Shimatsu, Yoichi (21 October 2011). "Villain or Hero? Desert Lion Perishes, Leaving West Explosive Legacy". New America Media. Retrieved on 23 October 2011.
  13. 13.0 13.1 "Zimbabwe: Reason Wafavarova - Reverence for Hatred of Democracy". (21 July 2011). Retrieved on 23 October 2011.
  14. Risen, James; Lichtblau, Eric (9 March 2011). "Hoard of Cash Lets Qaddafi Extend Fight Against Rebels", The New York Times. Retrieved on 10 March 2011. 
  15. "Lesson from Libya: Despotism, Poverty and Risk", Reuters (4 March 2011). 
  16. 16.0 16.1 "A Civil War Beckons: As Muammar Qaddafi fights back, fissures in the opposition start to emerge", The Economist (3 March 2011). Retrieved on 12 March 2011. 
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 "The Liberated East: Building a New Libya – Around Benghazi, Muammar Qaddafi’s enemies have triumphed", The Economist (24 February 2011). Retrieved on 12 March 2011. 
  18. "Endgame in Tripoli", The Economist (24 February 2011). 
  19. "Shady Dealings Helped Qaddafi Build Fortune and Regime", The New York Times (24 March 2011). 
  20. "One reason Qaddafi might fold", The Economist (1 April 2011). 
  21. Salak, Kira (2008). "Libya: The Land of Cruel Deaths". Retrieved on 29 August 2011.
  23. Libya
  24. World Population Prospects, the 2010 Revision
  25. "The Improvised State – Who's actually running things in free Libya?". Foreign Policy (20 April 2011).
  26. Watkins, John (18 March 2006). "Libya's thirst for 'fossil water'", BBC News. Retrieved on 14 February 2010. 
  27. Guinness World Records 2008 Book. ISBN 978-1-904994-18-3
  28. "卡扎菲千万美元定购望远镜 可能安装在沙漠深处(组图)". 东方军事 (6 January 2005). Retrieved on 27 July 2008.
  29. "Libya: Ministries Abolished". Retrieved on 14 February 2010.
  30. "Gaddafi threatens to abolish government ministries" (3 March 2008). Retrieved on 29 October 2011. 
  31. 31.0 31.1 "Libya's Gaddafi tells govt to hand out oil money" (May 8, 2008). Retrieved on 30 October 2011. 
  32. "Gaddafi 'to hand out oil money'", BBC News (1 September 2008). Retrieved on 23 October 2011. 
  33. "Gaddafi threatens to abolish government ministries" (3 March 2008). Retrieved on 29 October 2011. 
  34. 34.0 34.1 "Libyan congresses delay Gaddafi's oil shareout plan" (March 3, 2009). Retrieved on 30 October 2011. 
  35. "Libya delays Gaddafi oil plan" (3 March 2009). Retrieved on 30 October 2011. 
  36. Nazemroaya, Mahdi Darius; Cynthia McKinney (27 October 2011). "Who Was Muammar Qaddafi? Libya's Wealth Redistribution Project". Global Research. Retrieved on 28 October 2011.
  37. Passed to the Telegraph by WikiLeaks 9:38 pm GMT 31 Jan 2011 (31 January 2011). "Al-Qadhafi Suggests Libyan Elections May Be In The Offing", Telegraph. Retrieved on 1 September 2011. 
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.