Thu, Aug 23, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Qaddafi's son calls for new `social contract' for Libya

The Guardian, LONDON

Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's son and likely heir has called for a new constitution or "social contract" that would establish an independent judiciary, central bank and free media while also ensuring his father stays in power and that Islam remains the source of Libya's laws.

In a speech broadcast live on state-run television and widely reported across the Arab world on Tuesday, Seif al-Islam al-Qaddafi told a crowd of 40,000 in Benghazi on Monday night: "The important thing is to have a contract that will organize the lives of Libyans."

GRADUAL REFORM

It was the latest sign that the Jamahiriyah or "state of the masses" may pursue more gradual reforms which will give it some characteristics of a democracy and market economy, creating changes which could move further once Colonel Qaddafi, now 65, leaves the stage -- and even serve as an example to other Arab countries.

But analysts cautioned that the full significance of the speech would not be clear until Qaddafi senior -- referred to as "The Leader" -- gives his own annual address on Sept. 1, the anniversary of the 1969 coup that brought him and his fellow "free officers" to power, overthrowing the nation's Western-backed monarchy.

NOT CLEAR

"Seif means what he says but it's not clear he can deliver everything he would like," said one Tripoli-based diplomat.

Last year Seif al-Islam gave a speech attacking "Mafia-like" officials and promised greater transparency and a fight against corruption. Days later, his father gave an old-style revolutionary peroration virtually ignoring moves to reform.

RED LINES

The younger Qaddafi has taken note of his father's reservations, speaking of "red lines" that could not be crossed. These were "Islam and the application of Shariah law, ... security and stability in Libya, the unity of the national territory, and Muammar Qaddafi."

But while Seif al-Islam did not attack the people's committees which form the backbone of the country's "direct democracy" he stressed the need to widen political dialogue in the nation beyond them. The younger Qaddafi called too for strengthening the powers of the prime minister so that he could choose his ministers, something the people's committees have done so far. Under the current system political parties are banned.

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