May 5, 2010 / 3:29 PM / 7 years ago

Gaddafi's reformist son urges Libyan constitution

3 Min Read

CAIRO (Reuters) - Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the Libyan leader's liberal-leaning son, Wednesday said a constitution is vital to Libya's prosperity and the country should speed up reforms of its opaque administrative system.

Analysts say Islam, who took a central role in ending Libya's long stand-off with West, has unsettled the country's old guard with proposals for political and economic liberalization.

"We need a constitution. You cannot run a country without having a constitution, without basic laws. It's a must," Gaddafi told a conference in Cairo.

Libya has no formal constitution and on paper is ruled according to a system of grass-roots socialism set out in Muammar Gaddafi's "Green Book," which outlines his philosophy and views on how countries should be governed.

Saif al-Islam, who studied at the London School of Economics and has spent years cultivating an image as a reformer, has been seeking to gather support for a constitution, according to Libyans close to ruling circles, but has encountered resistance from hardliners with vested interests in the current system.

One Libyan with links to Saif al-Islam's circle said he was planning a new constitution drive in the next few months.

"The way of governance needs to be revised dramatically and in a very serious way. This is priority number one," Saif al-Islam said.

Saif al-Islam has the highest profile of the sons of Gaddafi, who with 40 years at the helm in Libya is Africa's longest-serving living leader. Yet analysts say Gaddafi's son has little support from the army, whose endorsement is seen as vital if he is to have a political future.

In October, Gaddafi named him head of Libya's Social Popular Leadership, a grouping of business, union and political leaders established in the 1980s to give voice to tribal interests that underpin the government.

The position could make Saif al-Islam Libya's second most prominent figure, but the country's powerful conservative establishment appears to be holding up his appointment.

Such delays have dimmed hopes that ending sanctions would bring greater political openness in the North African country.

A constitution could benefit investors because it would, at least in theory, create a system that is more predictable than the opaque structure in place now.

"Efficiency is very important. Sometimes we have fancy and romantic ideas, but reality is a different story," he told the conference.

Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz; Editing by Samia Nakhoul

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