Libya’s civil war has destroyed most of the nascent state institutions that emerged after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi. As such, the Constitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) is the remaining institution whose democratic legitimacy faces least dispute. However, internal tensions and external pressures could destroy this institution too, lowering the possibility of negotiating a new political order in Libya.

The Supreme Court’s dissolution of the House of Representatives on November 6, 2014 sent shockwaves through the national and international community. Even though its legitimacy was disputed, there was hope that a deal could be forged to restore its credibility and make it a key actor in peacemaking. In a very practical way, the dissolution of the House of Representatives has put the CDA more into the limelight, particularly in the eyes of the international community. The increasing focus on the CDA has created tensions within the body, which until now tried to maintain cohesion by keeping its distance from political polarization that is now taking the form of competing claims for legitimacy between two governments.

On a legal level, the Supreme Court’s reasoning could be seen to undermine the CDA and open the door to judicial challenges against it. Originally, the CDA was tasked to complete its work within 120 days. Since the CDA started its work on April 21, 2014, that deadline would have expired in August 2014. However, in March this year Libya’s parliament amended the constitutional declaration, which set the framework for the post-Qaddafi period, indicating that the forthcoming House of Representatives would provide democratic representation during an eighteen-month transitional period until the new constitution was adopted. This amendment was seen to implicitly extend the CDA’s deadline from 120 days to eighteen months. The recent Supreme Court decision declared the amendment to be unconstitutional, meaning that the legal basis for the House of Representatives disappeared, as well as the extended timeframe.

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