February 19, 2009 / 1:53 PM / 10 years ago

FACTBOX-Some facts about Libya's congresses

Feb 19 (Reuters) - Libya’s Basic People’s Congresses, the country’s top legislative and executive bodies, are meeting to discuss Muammar Gaddafi’s plan to disband the government and give oil money earned by the OPEC state directly to the people.

Here are some facts about the congresses.

WHY WERE THEY FORMED?

Since Gaddafi toppled the monarchy in a coup in 1969, forming political parties has been branded treason and forbidden, like the parliamentary system.

In 1977 Gaddafi changed the country’s name to the Great Socialist Popular Libyan Arab Jamahiriyah (State of the Masses) and allowed people to air their views at people’s congresses.

Gaddafi’s style of grass-roots democracy was designed as an alternative to Western parliamentary democracy and Socialist single party rule.

NUMBERS

The congresses are formed at district and village level across the country. About 3 million Libyans can join them.

A total of 468 congresses vote to adopt laws and set government policy in areas like oil, the military and diplomacy.

The congresses elect Executive Committees, or local government, to implement policy.

NATIONAL POLICY

The congresses appoint their representatives to the 300-member General People’s Congress, the equivalent of a national parliament, which endorses laws and other decisions by the basic congresses. It appoints ministers to the cabinet, or General People’s Committee.

Any decision by the basic congresses in their meetings due to end on Sunday would be announced by the General People Congress when it meets, probably early next month.

DISSIDENT VIEWS

Opposition groups based abroad dismiss the congresses as a de facto single party dedicated to enforce a dictatorship to keep power and wealth in the hands of Gaddafi and his entourage.

The congresses, in theory, hold ultimate power but critics say in practice Gaddafi decides key policies.

The opposition groups doubt Gaddafi would allow Libyans to receive oil money directly, arguing this would loosen his grip on power and ultimately lead to his demise.

Moderate intellectuals living in Libya, who do not oppose Gaddafi, say the priority should instead be providing a good education.

BACKGROUND TO GADDAFI’S PLANS ON OIL AND GOVERNMENT

In August 2006, Gaddafi made a series of speeches scolding his nation for over-reliance on petroleum, foreigners and imports and telling them to start making things people need.

He says oil is Libya’s primary source of wealth and people should focus on how it is spent. Corruption is spreading and further undermining confidence in government, he says.

Gaddafi sees the solution as dismantling government and giving money he estimates at $32 billion directly to the people this year. His scheme has been opposed by senior officials, who stand to lose their jobs if government is purged. (Writing by Lamine Ghanmi; Editing by Charles Dick)

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