Sharia should be ‘main’ source of Libya legislation, not subject to referendum: NTC


Libya’s outgoing National Transitional Council said on Thursday that Sharia (Islamic law) should be the “main” source of legislation and that this should not be subject to a referendum.

“The Libyan people are attached to Islam, as a religion and legislation,” NTC spokesman Saleh Darhoub said, reading from a statement.

“As such the National Transitional Council recommends that the (next) congress make sharia the main source of legislation.”

“And this should not be subject to a referendum,” he added, speaking to journalists in Tripoli, according to AFP.

He later explained that the decision was made to reassure elements of society fearful of being saddled with a constitution that does not take into account Islamic law, or Sharia.

“We are not afraid of holding a referendum on Sharia. But we wanted to reassure elements of society who are scared of the referendum,” Darhoub said.

Libyans are to vote on Saturday for a General National Congress, which will be tasked with appointing a new government and a constituent authority.

The constitution needs to be approved in a national referendum, under a transition framework laid out by the NTC, which took power when long-time leader Muammar Qaddafi was slain last year.

Some of the key issues to be determined by the constitution are the form of governance, the weight of Islam in state and society, the role of women and the rights of minorities.

After the constitution is approved, the newly elected congress will have 30 days to issue a new election law, with elections for a government to be held 180 days after that, according to the NTC’s roadmap.

If these benchmarks are met, the new authorities will be in power for a period of roughly 12 months, a short window of opportunity to tackle major challenges such as disarming militias and reviving the judiciary.

Hundreds of armed men calling for Islamic law and rejecting democracy as “Western” staged a demonstration last month in the eastern city of Benghazi, which held the NTC’s war-time headquarters.

Well-armed Islamist groups in the east, such as the Partisans of Shariah, oppose the vote, saying that the conservative Muslim country needs no constitution other than the Quran.

Libya’s interim rulers say that radical Islamists are a minority.

There are no sizeable religious minorities in the oil-rich nation and secular values have little traction among conservative Sunni Muslims who make up the majority of the population.

Attack by arsonists

Meanwhile, a fire ravaged a depot containing electoral material in the eastern Libyan city of Ajdabiya, officials said on Thursday, blaming the attack on arsonists.

“All material required for holding the election was stored in this warehouse,” Abelqader Habib, an electoral official in Ajdabiya, told AFP.

“We had ballot papers, voter lists, lists of candidates and political parties, some posters, stickers, banners, boxes and other stuff. Everything is burnt,” he added.

“We don’t know who did this but obviously there are people who don’t want elections to be held as scheduled,” Habib said.

The fire appeared to have been set from inside the cement building, blackening every surface. Melted plastic containers, charred tables and chairs were scattered everywhere, an AFP journalist said.

“The fire happened before sunrise,” said another electoral official.

He added that backers of federalism, some of them armed, “had tried to attack the depot yesterday (Wednesday) and residents of the city parried the attack by forming a human shield around the warehouse.”

Habib said the losses should not undermine the election because authorities had stored extra material elsewhere.

The head of the electoral commission in Benghazi, Jamal Bugrin, warned earlier “if a solution is not found today (Thursday) to replace the material, voting would have to be delayed in that district.”

The district of Ajdabiya has been allocated four seats in the 200-member national assembly due to be elected on Saturday.

On July 1, the electoral commission’s headquarters in Benghazi were attacked by armed men calling for a reallocation of seats on the national assembly, which will govern during a transitional period.

A federalist movement calling for greater autonomy of the east has threatened to boycott and disrupt the elections if its demands to change the allocation of seats are not met.

The movement would like an equal allocation of seats along regional lines. The interim authorities instead decided to allocate 100 seats to the west, 60 to the east and 40 to the south, citing demographic considerations.

In Tripoli, the ruling National Transitional Council issued a statement condemning the act of arson and warning that it could cause delay the vote in Ajdabiya.

“It was an act of arson, this could delay the electoral process in this region,” said