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Libya Table of Contents


The Green Book, Part I

In April 1974, Qadhafi relinquished his governmental duties to devote full time to ideological concerns and mass organization. A year later, he announced the reorganization of the ASU to include popular congresses, topped by the GPC. In March 1977, the GPC became, at least formally, the primary instrument of government in Libya. The reorganization of the ASU and the elevation of the GPC were carried out in conjunction with Qadhafi's political theories found in his work, The Green Book, Part I: The Solution of the Problem of Democracy.

The Green Book begins with the premise that all contemporary political systems are merely the result of the struggle for power between instruments of governing. Those instruments of governing--parliaments, electoral systems, referenda, party government--are all undemocratic, divisive, or both. Parliaments are based on indirect democracy or representation. Representation is based on separate constituencies; deputies represent their constituencies, often against the interests of other constituencies. Thus, the total national interest is never represented, and the problem of indirect (and consequently unrepresentative) democracy is compounded by the problem of divisiveness. Moreover, an electoral system in which the majority vote wins all representation means that as much as 49 percent of the electorate is unrepresented. (A win by a plurality can have the result that an even greater percentage of the electorate is unrepresented; electoral schemes to promote proportional representation increase the overall representative nature of the system, but small minorities are still left unrepresented.) Qadhafi also believes referenda are undemocratic because they force the electorate to answer simply yes or no to complex issues without being able to express fully their will. He says that because parties represent specific interests or classes, multiparty political systems are inherently factionalized. In contrast, a single-party political system has the disadvantage of institutionalizing the dominance of a single interest or class.

Qadhafi believes that political systems have used these kinds of indirect or representative instruments because direct democracy, in which all participate in the study and debate of issues and policies confronting the nation, ordinarily is impossible to implement in contemporary times. Populations have grown too large for direct democracy, which remained only an ideal until the formulation of the concepts of people's committees and popular congresses.

Most observers would conclude that these organizations, like congresses or parliaments in other nations, obviously involve some degree of delegation and representation. Qadhafi, however, believes that with their creation contemporary direct democracy has been achieved in Libya. Qadhafi bases this conviction on the fact that the people's committees and popular congresses are theoretically responsible not only for the creation of legislation, but also its implementation at the grass-roots level. Moreover, they have a much larger total membership as a percentage of the national population than legislative bodies in other countries.

In many ways, Qadhafi's political ideology is part of the radical strain of Western democratic thought associated primarily with Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For, as scholar Sami Hajjar noted, Qadhafi's notions of popular sovereignty are quite similar to the Rousseauian concept of general will. Both hold that sovereignty is inalienable, indivisible, and infallible. Both believe in equality and in direct popular rule. Thus, concludes Qadhafi, "the outdated definition of democracy--democracy is the supervision of the government by the people--becomes obsolete. It will be replaced by the true definition: democracy is the supervision of the people by the people."

Data as of 1987