I've been following the recent events in Libya and I learned about the Green Book, which outlines Gaddafi's vision for a democratic socialism. Published in 1975, it proposed a form of direct democracy supposedly implemented in Libya called Jamahiria.

"This new theory is based on the authority of the people, without representation or deputation. It achieves direct democracy in an orderly and effective form. It is superior to the older attempts at direct democracy which were impractical because they lacked popular organizations at base levels."

Gaddafi was widely critical of the different forms of dictatorship through history, and he even counted representative democracies among them. "The most tyrannical dictatorships the world has known have existed under the aegis of parliaments."

He claimed western democracy is not democratic enough; that he was not "the leader", and "you don't understand the system here".

How well do we understand the system there? How did Jamahiria actually work in practice, was there actually a process of direct democracy, to any degree?


3 Answers 3


Jamahiriya translated is a state of the masses. The way that Gaddafi explained it was that the state was governed by the populace through local councils, and he was the designated leader of the people. In reality, it was an authoritarian state with Gaddafi in sole power.

In practice, the government was organized into "people's committees", which were local representatives. Each people's committee reported to the General People's Committee, which was Gaddafi's cabinet, with Gaddafi as the General Secretary and the primary decision maker.

The people's committees consisted of local people from each municipality who were elected into the position and served a three year term. This went through several different variations and forms, with the people's committees being formed at different levels, but ultimately the decision was to leave them at the municipality level.

So in response to your question, there was a somewhat limited form of democracy in the the representatives on the people's committees were elected. While these committees may have operated with the best interests of their constituents in mind, the final authority on all decisions fell to Gaddafi.

  • not exactly ,in theory he doesnt rule,the people tell what they want,and the other people called "people section" execute these decisions.he just a viewer and the final decision in the hand of people by these committee ,by debate
    – md nth
    Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 20:41
  • 1
    The fun thing is that not only this was a dictatorship masked as democracy, but it wasn't even direct in the first place: it was representative!
    – o0'.
    Commented Oct 17, 2014 at 9:44

Smoke and mirrors. It's all lies - he was your standard run-of-the-mill dictator. This includes finding fancy justifications for one's powers, in his case "direct democracy".

  • Why the downvote? This is correct: after all, the actual system used (as detailed in @Steven's answer) directly contradicts his book itself, since it was representative.
    – o0'.
    Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 15:48
  • yep,he always says best things but do the worst things ,just a fantasy , and it was very violent security system.
    – md nth
    Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 18:44
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    Felix, your statement doesn't really add anything to the question: Yes, it's evident that things were quite different from the ideals held up in the Green Book, thus the point of my question. Even under a dictatorship (and especially a strong "successful" one) I'm sure there was a structure of power and distributed decision-making down to the local level: one man alone can't run the country.
    – Andrew Vit
    Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 22:17
  • @AndrewVit: Thanks for the clarification, Andrew. However, I think I did answer the last question at the end of your post: "was there actually a process of direct democracy, to any degree?". No, there wasn't. If you want to ask how was Libya run at the local level (as you correctly point out, every state is run somehow), then it's a separate, perhaps more interesting question. Commented Dec 28, 2012 at 23:43
  • Another downvote. Why, I wonder? Commented Jun 26, 2013 at 7:14

Most of the people here don't know what they're talking about. We've been too brainwashed by our media propaganda machine into thinking "democracy" means "electing" a "representative" ruler that we've forgotten what "democracy" even means. In reality, most Western governments in this day and age are not "democracies", but just electoral dictatorships, where the only choice that people get is which dictator gets to rule over them.

The original Athenian definition of "democracy" meant "people power", a system where the people do not elect "representatives" but instead make their own decisions. The first modern national democratic system of this kind was Libya. It was the first modern nation where it was the masses, not so-called "representatives", that made the decisions on how to run their country. This wasn't just at the local level either, but ran all the way up to the national level. When it came to making decisions on how the country is run, the masses would gather together at one of the 600+ local congresses and discuss the issue, eventually passing their votes over to a more central general committee (with members elected by the masses) where it would be the votes by the local congresses that determine the outcome of a national decision. Gaddafi had no real power within this system, but was simply a figurehead and nothing more, just like our Queen in Britain. Libya was the first modern nation based on true direct democracy, but it's a real shame how such a revolutionary democratic system is now being replaced by a corrupt Western-style electoral dictatorship instead.

  • 3
    -1 for retelling the Green Book in your own words. Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 16:12
  • So the masses, not so-called representatives, made the decisions on how to run their country, but a central general committee elected by the masses decided how the country is run? Looks like a contradictio in adjecto to me. Commented Jun 19, 2013 at 16:16
  • @EugeneSeidel Amicus Eugene, sed magis amica veritas: there is no contradiction in the passage, because the elected representatives would just pass the results of the local voting. In representative democracies instead it is the representative himself that decides how to vote, according to his own judgement.
    – astabada
    Commented Jun 20, 2013 at 13:12

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