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Last Updated: Friday, 2 March 2007, 00:39 GMT
Libyans mark Gaddafi anniversary
By Roger Hardy
BBC Middle East analyst

Colonel Gaddafi
Colonel Gaddafi's enthusiasm for his "third way" is undimmed
Libyans are marking the 30th anniversary of their leader's unique system of "popular rule".

In 1977 Muammar Gaddafi changed the country's name to the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

Eight years earlier, as a young army officer, he had seized power in a military coup.

Jamahiriya - a new Arabic term - roughly translates as "state of the masses".

Gaddafi set out his political philosophy in his Green Book.

A blend of socialism, Islam and Arab nationalism, it proclaimed a "third way" between capitalism and communism.

One-man show Gaddafi denounced elections and considered political parties divisive.

Instead, the people's will would be expressed through an elaborate machinery of popular congresses and revolutionary committees.


Despite being translated into more than 30 languages, the Green Book never caught on.

The Libyan leader's website claims Western leaders suppressed the book, fearing that, if its contents became common knowledge, they would find themselves out of a job.

The Jamahiriya might have presented an egalitarian facade.

But, in practice, Gaddafi ran a virtual one-man show.

As in most Arab regimes, power rested not with the masses but with a clan-based ruling elite.

Quirky and often dysfunctional though it was, Gaddafi's system of rule was kept afloat by oil wealth.

Libya has the biggest oil reserves in Africa.

Red tape

Now in his mid-60s, Gaddafi has over the last few years made a series of key concessions to end Libya's status as an international pariah.

First came the decision to accept responsibility for the bombing of a Pan-Am airliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

Then came the renunciation of weapons of mass destruction.

His reward was the ending of international sanctions and the resumption of diplomatic relations with the United States and Britain.

This has opened the way for foreign co-operation to develop the Libyan economy and the all-important oil sector.

Gaddafi's own enthusiasm for his "third way" seems undimmed.

Whether the Libyan people really appreciate this experiment in "popular rule" is another matter.

Most are probably glad that, at long last, their country has come in from the cold.

But they continue to chafe under the inefficiency, corruption and red tape of their unusual system of government.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks to the BBC

Country profile: Libya
24 Jan 07 |  Country profiles

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