Libya

6,422,772
Tripoli
Africa
None

Evidence of mankind in the area now known as Libya goes back 8,000 years when the climate was much milder and before the desert encroached from the south.

Nomadic tribes lived on the rich grassland and were eventually taken over by the Berbers who are thought to have come over from south west Asia.

The region was the subject of many invasions and occupations. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians lived there; the Greeks arrived before the Romans, but both left many classical remains. It was the invasion by the Arabs in the 7th Century that changed the region, converting it to Islam.

The next major invasion was by the Ottoman Empire in the early 1500s. They were to stay in the three areas known as Cyrenaica (in the east), Tripolitania (in the west) and Fezzan (in the south) until they were forced out by the Italians in 1911.

The Italian reign was relatively short lived, although they were the first to name the area as Libya in 1934. The Italians suffered from many skirmishes with local movements but held on to power until the Second World War. After battles with the Italians and then Field Marshal Rommel of the Afrika Corps, the British managed to take control of the whole of the North African coast.

After the war Libya was one of the few countries that achieved independence under the United Nations auspices. Although independence was planned for 1st January 1952, the Libyans declared independence on 24th December 1951.

Sidi Idris al-Senussi who had led the negotiations with the United Nations was then invited to take the crown which he duly did and became known as Idris of Libya. During his reign, in 1959, oil was found in Libya and the country prospered.

On 1st September 1969 whilst Idris was on a trip to Turkey a group of young military officers led by Muammar Gaddafi seized control, the monarchy was abolished and a republic was proclaimed.

Over the next 42 years Gaddafi consolidated his power and ran the country as a dictator. He developed his own political theory, known as the Third Universal Theory which was set out in his ‘Green Book’. There was the General People’s Congress (GPC) which equated to a Parliament but more in name than actions. No political parties were permitted.

By January 2011 the Arab Spring had caught hold in neighbouring Tunisia and in the February a popular uprising took hold in the east of the country around Benghazi. By March Gaddafi had lost large tracts of land to the rebels who were supported by a United Nations no fly zone and a bombing campaign by NATO.

On 22nd August 2011 Tripoli fell to the rebels and on 20th October Muammar Gaddafi was captured and subsequently shot whilst being transported. He was buried in an unknown spot in the desert in the October.

Meanwhile on 5th March 2011 a National Transitional Council was established which took responsibility for the transition to a democratic Islamic state and in February 2012 a new Elections Law laid the groundwork for the election of a Public National Conference on 6th July.

On 8th August 2012 the new General National Congress (GNC) with 200 seats came into existence. The new parliament was not a happy place with bickering between the more liberal elements and Islamists growing throughout the period. During its short life there were three Prime Ministers with, at one point, two Prime Ministers elected by the two factions.

The GNC did manage to put in place the framework for a new parliament and eventually established a 47 member Constitutional Assembly which was given the task of drafting a new constitution. Meanwhile problems began once more in the east of the country with armed groups seeking to establish an autonomous region centred on Benghazi. The fighting broke out of the east and by late June 2014 battles were raging around Tripoli airport with Islamists and anti-Islamist militia fighting it out.

Whilst all of this was taking place an election was held on 25th June 2014 for the 200 members of the new House of Representatives. Registration for the elections was low and so was the turnout with the requirement that the candidates must be independents and could not be associated with a political party. The final results gave the secularists the majority with only about 30 Islamists being elected.

Although only 188 members were elected due to boycotts and the security situation the parliament met for the first time on 4th August 2014 in the safe haven of Tobruk in the far east of the country near to the Egyptian border.

The first problem the parliament had to resolve was how to stop the fighting between militias and how to start the flow of oil once more to bring in much needed revenues. At the time of writing the parliament was tackling these problems but had agreed to hold a direct election for a President.

As of August 2014 the President is to be elected in direct elections but no date has been agreed.

The unicameral House of Representatives has 200 seats and serves for a four year term.

The Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 places Libya at joint 170th out of 176 countries with a CPI 2016 score of 14 (where 100 is least corrupt).