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State structure

The state form is based on Kaddafi's concept of jamahiriya ('state of the masses'). The jamahiriya is a political system whose roots lie in socialist and Islamic theories combined with tribal traditions. Every citizen has a seat on the Basic People's Committee. Representatives of the Basic People's Committee sit in the General People's Congress. The General People's Congress is the highest legislative body and the members of the General People's Committee (comparable to the cabinet) are chosen from among its members by Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi. The secretaries of the People's Committee are equivalent to ministers. The General People's Congress only has a monitoring function. The Libyan Arab Republic became the 'Great Libyan Arab Socialist People's Jamahiriya' in 1979. Kaddafi became 'Leader of the Revolution and Commander of the Armed Forces'. In practice, he serves as Head of State.


In fact, little has changed in the new order since the military coup in 1969. Opposition is not tolerated. Civil liberties are very limited. The 1978 restriction on the right of ownership and freedom of establishment was very drastic. Remarkable in the Arab context is that Kaddafi then also decided to nationalise the possessions of Islamic charitable foundations, which had been influential since time immemorial.

In the more than 30 years of Kaddafi's rule, his authority was only threatened from his own military apparatus. An attempted coup by dissident army officers in 1975 ended with the execution of 22 soldiers. In 1980, a mutiny in Cyrenaica left hundreds dead. Several opposition groups operate in the Diaspora. Their ranks were thinned in the 1980s by a wave of murders. More recently, attacks on military installations by militant Islamist groups have been claimed.

During the General People's Congress of January 2007, there was a change in the composition of the government. This is an almost annual ritual in which familiar names are changed. The former Minister of Finance and Chairman of the Central Bank, Dr Mahmoud Zlitni, became Deputy Prime Minister. Ali Al-Huweg, the former Deputy Prime Minister, became Finance Minister. The totally unknown Mohamed Abdeljalil became Minister of Justice. He thus became the new chairman of the Supreme Judicial Council, which has to confirm the policy in the case of a death sentence confirmed by the high council. Baghdadi al-Mahmudi remains Prime Minister. Dr Alaziz Al-Eisawi became the new Minister of Economy. Ibrahim Kraa became Minister of the new Department of Electricity, Water and Gas and Youssef Zekri became Minister of Industry and Mining.

The current political situation is described in the history section.


The Libyan economy benefited from the increase in oil prices in 2007. There is a large budget surplus, which makes Libya a rich country on the African continent and allows for the necessary investments in infrastructure. However, this oil-income economy suffers from structural weaknesses. Activity outside the oil sector is almost non-existent and there is high unemployment among the indigenous population.

Since the beginning of this century, Libyan policy has been aimed at some liberalisation of economic life. Private enterprise is being allowed again. There is talk of privatising large state companies but for the time being only the very loss-making ones. Foreign investment is encouraged but its effect is largely lost due to a muddle of unclear and unpredictable regulations that are often interpreted to the disadvantage of the foreign investors. Economic life is still largely state-controlled and almost entirely dependent on the oil industry.

Economic growth has been very uneven since the deposition of Gaddafi. In 2017 it was 64%, but the year before it was negative. The per capita GDP was $9,600 in 2017. The unemployment rate hovers around 30%. In 2017, $18.4 billion was exported, mainly to Italy, Spain, France and Egypt. In the same year, $11.4 billion was imported mainly from China, Turkey, Italy and South Korea.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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