8 Jul 2012

Liberal coalition takes early lead in Libya

A liberal coalition takes an early lead in vote counting on Sunday but with 3,700 candidates and more than 130 parties it is too early to call. Preliminary results are expected Monday.

With voter turnout at 60 per cent, early reports indicated liberal politicians leading in the majority of Libyan constituencies, Faisal Krekshi, secretary general of the National Forces Alliance, said. The alliance is headed by Mahmud Jibril, rebel prime minister during the revolt that toppled dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The National Forces Alliance achieved good results in Tripoli and Benghazi, said Mohammed Sawan, head of the Justice and Construction party. The majority of Libya’s registered voters are in the capital, which lies in the west of the oil-rich desert country, and in the eastern city of Benghazi.

“It is a tight race for us in the south,” said Mr Sawan, a former political prisoner and member of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood.

Liberal coalition ahead in Libya

Television channel Al-Assima, citing unofficial reports, said the coalition was well ahead in Tripoli with 80 per cent in the district of Tripoli Centre, and 90 per cent in the impoverished district of Abu Slim. Preliminary figures showed the coalition at 70 per cent in Benghazi and 80 per cent in Al-Bayda, hometown of Libya’s interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

The vast majority of election stations operated without incident on Saturday as some 2.8m Libyans cast their first ballots in 60 years in free national elections. Gaddafi had banned as an act of treason. Voters took to the streets afterward, proudly holding their inky-stained fingers in the air (see photo left).

Some polling stations were attacked, however, and ballots were burned. A helicopter carrying Libyan election material was shot at by gunmen at Benghazi’s airport. The shooting killed one and wounded two others, Bloomberg reported.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, heading the team of 21 European Union observers, said large numbers of Libyans voted “peacefully and free of fear and intimidation, despite some disturbances in the east and some tensions in the south.”

Ports occupied

Protesters have been occupying the ports of Ras Lanuf, Al-Sidra and Al-Harouj since 5 July in the oil-rich eastern province of Cyrenaica to publicise their claims of marginalisation. Oil exports have been cut by about 300,000 barrels a day as a result of protesters blocking oil terminals, the head of the state-run National Oil Corp. Nuri Berruien said.

Libyans are electing a General National Congress, a 200-member legislative assembly to steer the country through a transition. Eighty seats in the incoming congress are reserved for political entities while 120 are held for individual candidates, some allied to specific parties.

Altogether, 3,707 candidates stood in 72 districts nationwide. Votes were still being tallied on Sunday by Libya’s electoral commission with preliminary results expected tomorrow night.

The outgoing National Transitional Council said seats were distributed according to demographics, with 100 going to the west, 60 to the east and 40 to the south.

Libya has not seen national elections since the era of the late King Idris, whom Gaddafi deposed in a bloodless coup in 1969.