Tripoli - Out of sight, in a large hall lit by welding sparks, workers in Libya are rushing to build an assembly fit for the country's first elected authorities since the ouster of Moamer Kadhafi's regime.
“After a terrible war and battle against the dictator, we are in the process of building a new democracy one piece of iron at the time,” said Othman Ben Sassi, a member of the outgoing National Transitional Council (NTC).
Libyans on Saturday voted in a national election for the first time after 42 years of tyrannical rule under Kadhafi. The ballot papers were still being tallied on Monday by the country's electoral commission.
On the second storey of a conference hall in Tripoli, Turkish labourers smoothed the edges of a three-tier metal framework before it is fitted out with wooden planks newly delivered from Germany.
The structure will then be crowned with hundreds of red plush seats, ordered from Turkey, to accommodate the 200 members of the national assembly as well as civil society observers and media, he said.
The 2-million-dinar ($1.6 million) project is being carried out by a Libyan company with the help of foreign partners, Ben Sassi said.
The clock is ticking for the workers sweating away in the summer heat to finish the job ahead of the first meeting of the assembly.
This has been pencilled in for August 1 or 7, depending on when the final poll results are issued.
But Libyans have become masters at building things from scratch and working to tight deadlines, holding national elections less than nine months after the capture and killing of long-time dictator Kadhafi.
Ben Sassi said the new structure will be a temporary venue for meetings and will later be replaced by a proper parliament building developed according to the wishes of the chosen representatives.
“They need to be able to start working immediately. We do not want to waste time,” Ben Sassi said, adding that the United Nations and the European Union are supporting efforts to bring the delegates up to speed with their duties.
The NTC, which has been at the helm of the country since the takeover of the capital Tripoli last August, will be dissolved as soon as the newly elected congress holds its first session.
The two most pressing tasks facing the incoming congress are the election of a chairman who will lead the legislative assembly and the appointment of an interim government.
Ben Sassi said the 200 representatives will be given a crash course on procedures covering everything from how to raise questions to the drafting of laws, issuing decrees, voting and the creation of working committees.
“There will be booklets explaining the representatives' roles and duties,” he said.
The delegates will also have a library and research centre at their disposal and the support of a veritable army of administrative aides and legal advisers. - Sapa-AFP IOLSA