The unicameral General People’s Congress (GPC), or Mu'tamar al-Sha’ab al-‘Aam, established in 1976, exercises the legislative power in Libya. The GPC is made up of 760 members. The members of the GPC are elected indirectly for a three-year term of office from a complex and changing network of popular congresses and committees that theoretically involve all Libyan nationals over 18 years of age.
The Green Book, which is based on a speech delivered by the Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi in 1975, asserts “The mere existence of a parliament means the absence of the people, but true democracy exists only through the participation of the people, not through the activity of their representatives.” In other words, representative democracy corresponds to “the denial of participation.” The Green Book, which is a manifesto of a system of pure democracy and a main source of legislation in Libya, declares that only people’s congresses and people’s committees can accomplish popular democracy. It rejects direct democracy based on referenda on the grounds that plebiscites do not express the people’s true will. The legislative system embraced by the Green Book and by the People’s Declaration of 1977 is a hierarchical one in which all citizens at the base are expected to participate in Basic People’s Congresses.
Each Basic People’s Congress chooses its own secretariat and its administrative bodies called People's Committees. The People's Committees are responsible to the Basic People’s Congresses, and the Basic People’s Congresses are responsible to thirteen Municipal People’s Congresses. Basic People’s Congress have the latitude to interpret and apply legislation as issued by the General People’s Congress.
At the top of the political hierarchy, the General People’s Congress (GPC) is composed of the officials of the congresses and committees lower down in the chain. The GPC has the power to issue decrees with the force of law. The GPC chooses a secretary (speaker of parliament) to preside over its sessions, to sign the laws by order of the Congress, and to accept the credentials of the representatives of foreign countries. The current Secretary of the General People's Congress is Muhammad al-Zanati.
Sessions, Dissolution, State of Exception
The General People’s Congress meets for only two weeks each year. For the remainder of the year, the functions of government are carried out by the General People’s Committee.
The General People’s Congress elects a five-member General Secretariat to make policy and serve as its permanent body. The General Secretariat prepares the sessions of the GPC and draws up its agenda. The Secretariat consists of a secretary general and a number of secretaries. These include the Secretariat for Women’s Affairs, the Secretariat for Affairs of the People’s Congresses, the Secretariat for Affairs of the Trade Unions, Syndicates and Professional Associations, and the Secretariat for Foreign Affairs.
Committee Structures and Membership
The General People’s Congress elects the General People's Committee, which functions as a cabinet. The current Secretary General of the General People's Committee (prime minister) is Shukri Muhammad Ghanim. Other standing committees exist for Economy and Trade, Finance, Foreign Liaison and International Cooperation, Justice and Public Security, Planning, and Tourism. The Secretaries of the standing committees are also members of the General People’s Committee.
Legislative Drafting Processes
The agenda for meetings of the General People’s Congress is set by the General People’s Committee, so that the Committee has responsibility for proposing laws and scheduling debate. Laws are ultimately approved by the General People’s Committee upon the recommendation of the General People’s Congress.
The General People’s Congress is a member of both the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the Arab Inter-Parliamentary Union (AIPU).