Just over a week after announcing a ban on parties based on religion or ethnicity, the Libyan National Transitional Council has backtracked on the law, giving a victory to Islamists.
Libya's transitional government reversed its ban on parties founded on religion, tribe, region or ethnicity a week after it first announced the law, bowing to fierce opposition from Islamist groups expected to fare well in elections this summer.
The judicial committee of the National Transitional Council on Wednesday read out an amended version of the law governing the formation of political parties and organizations, making no mention of the ban it first announced last week in the interest of "national unity."
Political analysts say Islamists, including the Muslim Brotherhood, are likely to emerge as the dominant political force in Libya, as they have in neighboring Arab Spring countries Tunisia and Egypt.
Ethnic identity in Libya has also become a strong force for political organization, with tribal leaders in eastern Libya declaring semi-autonomy in March. Tribal violence has meanwhile plagued southern Libya, where ethnic Tabu leaders have threatened to declare independence.
Gadhafi 'glorification' banned
Alongside the revised political party law, the NTC also criminalized glorification of the late ruler Moammar Gadhafi and insulting the revolution that ousted him from power.
"Glorification of Moammar Gadhafi, his regime, ideas and his children ... is punishable by a prison sentence," an official told reporters in Tripoli, reading from the text of the new law. "If those news reports, rumors or propaganda cause any damage to the state the penalty will be life in prison,"
Another law also punishes anyone who "offended the 17th February revolution, anyone who insults the Islamic religion or the state and its institutions.
Elections are due in June for a body that will draft a new constitution and form a new government.
acb/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)