The Cultural Revolution and People's Committees
Bureaucratic inefficiency and lack of public participation continued
to plague the subnational governmental system. Not only did the
ASU organization appear too complex to foster public involvement
by the politically unsophisticated masses, but there was the additional
problem of poor coordination between the ASU and subnational administrators.
In large part to correct these problems, Qadhafi proclaimed the
Cultural Revolution on April 15, 1973. The institutional linchpin
of the Cultural Revolution was the people's committee, which also
was the primary component of the third stage in the development
of subnational administration.
Similar in structure to the ASU, people's committees were both
functionally and geographically based. Functionally based people's
committees were established in universities, schools, private
business firms (including foreign-owned oil companies), farms,
public utilities, banks, government organs, the broadcast media,
and at harbor and airport facilities. Geographically based people's
committees were formed at the governorate, municipal, and zone
levels (municipalities being composed of several zones). Direct
popular elections filled the seats on the people's committees
at the zone level. The zone-level committees selected representatives
who collectively formed the Municipal People's Committee; municipal
people's committees in turn selected representatives to form the
governorate people's committees. Any citizen of at least nineteen
years of age was permitted to vote and to run for committee membership,
but there were no standardized rules governing the formation of
the people's committees, at least at the beginning. This resulted
in considerable confusion, particularly when multiple people's
committees formed in the same place began denouncing each other.
In such instances, new RCC-sanctioned elections had to be called.
The deadline for the formation of people's committees was August
1973. Estimates of the number of committees in existence by that
time vary from approximately 1,000 to more than 2,000.
According to Qadhafi, people's committees were to be the primary
instrument of the revolution. They were to decide what and who
conformed to the principles of the revolution, a task that included
the purging of government officials (up to the rank of undersecretary)
and private executives and managers. Thousands of functionaries
were dismissed, demoted, or transferred. In rare cases, executives
and other functionaries were promoted. Such actions severely disrupted
the orderly operation of countless government offices and private
enterprises, so much so that by the fall of 1973 the press and
the RCC were publicly criticizing the zeal with which committees
substituted unqualified replacements for experienced persons.
At no time did the RCC lose control of the situation, however;
on occasion it reversed people's committee actions, dismissed
individual committee members, and even dissolved whole committees,
sanctioning new elections in the process. In a positive sense,
the people's committees provided the masses with still more opportunities
to participate in the governmental system, and the purges resulted
in the replacement of critics (both real and imagined) of the
Qadhafi regime by militants who felt more closely linked to the
RCC and the revolution.
The people's committees originally were seen as an experiment,
but by October 1973 a new law had formalized their existence and
set their term of membership at three years. More significantly,
the law transferred the authority and functions of municipal and
governorate councils to the people's committees at the same levels.
The chairmen of the governorate people's committees became the
governors; the chairmen of the municipal people's committees became
During 1974 doubts increased regarding the operation of the people's
committees. The Libyan press warned of the danger inherent in
the creation of a new bureaucratic class. In early September,
an RCC spokesman publicly accused the committee system of degenerating
into anarchy and rashness and of deviating from the path of true
democracy. New elections for all levels of people's committees
were held from September 14 to October 3; some of the existing
committees were reelected.
At the 1974 National Congress, Qadhafi stated that the complexity
of administrative machinery limited mass interest in political
participation, and he called for the removal of obstacles between
the people and the government. He believed that policy planning
should be centralized but that execution should be decentralized.
The congress responded by recommending the abolition of governorates.
It also stressed the primacy of the people's committees in administrative
affairs and the ASU's supervisory authority over the committees.
In February 1975, the RCC issued a law that abolished the governorates
and their service directorates; twelve years later, however many
sources continued to refer to the governorates as though they
still existed. A separate Ministry of Municipalities reemerged
from the Ministry of Interior. Direction of the services previously
administered by the governorate directorates--education, health,
housing, social services, labor, agricultural services, communications,
financial services, and economy--was transferred to nine newly
created control bureaus. Each control bureau was located in the
appropriate ministry, and the ministry became responsible for
delivery of the service to the country as a whole. Another RCC
law, issued on April 7, formally established the municipality
as the sole administrative and geographical subdivision within
Libya. It further stipulated that each municipality would be subdivided
into quarters, each quarter to have its own people's committee.
The municipal people's committee would comprise representatives
from the quarters' committees.
Data as of 1987