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Libya rebel council prepares for the day after Qaddafi

The council, responding to grumbling that they'll make a power grab once Muammar Qaddafi is deposed, says it's preparing for a democratic transition that's fair for all Libyans.

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The history of modern Libya has largely been drawn along an east-west fault that draws from both geography and culture. The vast stretch of desert between Qaddafi's hometown of Sirte in the west and the eastern city of Ajdabiyah divided Tripolitania from Cyreneica in ancient times.

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The cultural differences that rose from that separation extend to the modern day, and 20th-century Libya was frequently defined by Benghazi's struggle for autonomy and resources with Tripoli. To alloy western suspicions, the eastern rebels have consistently said that Tripoli should by Libya's capital.

Though Qaddafi has hung on against relentless NATO air pressure, when regimes like his crack they crack hard. There has been increasing pressure from the West for the rebels to come up with a plan for the day after, which they hope will encourage top officials from Qaddafi’s regime to switch sides.

The provisional constitution addresses some of these issues.

Eastern promise

Under the plan, the existing 45-member council will be enlarged to 60 members immediately following the fall of Tripoli. An extra 10 seats are reserved for top Qaddafi officials, says Baja. “These are people that do not have blood on their hands but know Tripoli and know Qaddafi’s secrets. We need these people,” he says.

“Too many people have collaborated with the Qaddafi regime,” says rebel health minister Naji Barakat. “We can’t execute or imprison all of them.”

According to Barakat, “only 30 to 40 people,” presumably including Qaddafi himself, will be excluded from a role in the new Libya. Some top Qaddafi officials, say NTC members, have already been quietly contacted and have agreed to cooperate.

One thing that they're not planning for is fast elections, in order to give ample time for preparation in a country unfamiliar with democratic government. “Last Saturday we had to intervene in the local school board elections in Benghazi because some people had brought their gunmen to the meeting," says Baja. "We don’t want to see that kind of thing repeated on a larger scale in Tripoli.”

The plan envisions a national conference to decide on the members of the enlarged council, from which a new provisional government will be chosen.

Some of the seats on the new council have already been filled.

“We will start from the local councils,” said Baja. “We are told that the people in Tripoli have already formed four such councils in secret. We shall see. We were given an additional eight names from Tripoli by tribal leaders at their meeting in Dubai.”

Constitutional convention

At the same time, 15 people will be asked to begin work on a new constitution. Forty-five days after it is finished, the constitution will be submitted to a popular referendum. Legislative elections will be held four months later, with presidential elections to follow two months after that, he says. “We’re looking at a time frame of 10 to 13 months from the fall of the regime to the presidential elections."

The draft constitution says Islam is the religion of the state, but guarantees freedom of religion.

There were long discussions over whether Islam should be “a source” rather than “the only source” of inspiration for future legislation, but the in the end “a source” prevailed. That subtlety of language is frequently argued over for the constitutions of Muslim majority countries, with the weaker "a source" allowing wiggle room for compromise.

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