First Published: 2012-07-08

 

Liberal coalition claim early lead in Libya vote count

 

Leader of one of Libya's main Islamist parties acknowledges rival coalition has advantage in country's two largest cities, Benghazi and Tripoli.

 

Middle East Online

By Dominique Soguel – TRIPOLI

Libya votes for General National Congress

Liberals claimed an early lead on Sunday in counting of votes across the country after Libya's first free elections following the ouster of leader Moamer Gathafi.

"Early reports show that the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies," the secretary general of the National Forces Alliance, Faisal Krekshi, said.

The alliance of liberal forces is headed by Mahmud Jibril who played a prominent role as rebel prime minister during the popular revolt that toppled Gathafi last year.

The leader of one of Libya's main Islamist parties acknowledged that the rival coalition had the advantage in the country's two largest cities.

"The National Forces Alliance achieved good results in some large cities except Misrata. They have a net lead in Tripoli and in Benghazi," said Mohammed Sawan, who heads the Justice and Construction party.

"But it is a tight race for us in the south," added Sawan, a former political prisoner and member of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, which launched the party.

The bulk of Libya's population and registered voters are concentrated in the capital, which lies in the west of the oil-rich desert country, and in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Libyans on Saturday voted for a General National Congress, a 200-member legislative assembly which will steer the country through a transition period. Turnout was above 60 percent, the electoral commission said.

A total of 80 seats in the incoming congress are reserved for political entities while the remaining 120 are held for individual candidates, some of who are openly allied to specific parties.

Altogether, 3,707 candidates stood in 72 districts nationwide.

Sawan said the results were mixed in terms of which party was performing better at the polls when it comes down to allies and sympathisers who are running as individual candidates.

Votes were still being tallied by Libya's electoral commission with preliminary results expected by Monday night.

The world is waiting to see whether Libya, a conservative Muslim country with no significant minorities, will deliver a win for Islamists like in neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia.

From the parties, the National Forces coalition and two Islamist contenders, Justice and Construction and Al-Wattan, stood out from the start.

But early reports by local media seemed to back the party leaders' claims.

Private channel Al-Assima TV reported overnight that the coalition was well ahead in the capital, scooping 80 percent in the district of Tripoli Centre, and 90 percent in the impoverished district of Abu Slim.

Its edge, the channel said, was also sharp in the troubled east, with preliminary figures giving it 70 percent in Benghazi and 80 percent in Al-Bayda, hometown of Libya's interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.

These figures, however, were unofficial.

"The first winner is the Libyan people," declared a beaming Nuri Abbar, head of the electoral commission, at the end of a rollercoaster voting day which was briefly clouded by unrest in the east of the country.

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, who heads a team of 21 European Union observers, said large numbers voted "peacefully and free of fear and intimidation, despite some disturbances in the east and some tensions in the south."

"The election, however, is far from over. Counting, tallying and the publication of results are the other important steps in this electoral process," Lambsdorff cautioned.

The make-up of the congress being elected has been a matter of heated debate, with factions such as the federalist movement in the east calling for more seats and staging acts of sabotage both before and during the elections.

The outgoing National Transitional Council (NTC) says 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 Gathafi deposed in a bloodless coup in 1969.

Political parties were banned as an act of treason during Gathafi's iron-fisted rule. On Saturday, 142 parties fielded candidates.

 

Iraq’s peshmerga ‘break’ Mount Sinjar siege

Three years to end Israeli occupation in UN resolution

Yemen’s Huthis seize Sanaa state offices

Turkish media chiefs charged with terrorism

Tumbling oil prices cut budgets of Mideast arms exporters

Iraq may delay payment of Kuwait war reparations

Over $900 million needed to help Syria children

Saudi rules out oil output reduction

Dutch populist lawmaker to be tried for 'fewer Moroccans' vow

Outrage in Algeria over Islamist call for Algerian author's death

Iraq Kurds, coalition launch offensive to retake Sinjar

Somalia appoints new PM after bitter infighting

Blow to Israel: EU court removes Hamas from terror blacklist

Sharp rise in Syria passport applications

Turkey FM visit to Iran highlights Syria divide

UK troops mistreated Iraq detainees in 2004

Saudi to carry on massive public spending

Iran to Australia: We warned you about the gunman

From bikini to Jihad in Ceuta, Melilla

Tunisia votes Sunday in second round of presidential poll

Islamist militias launch air strike near key Libyan oil terminals

Egypt refers 312 Islamists to military courts

Turkey rejects EU criticism over media arrests

Kerry meets chief Palestinian negotiator

Saudi cleric sparks uproar for showing wife’s face

15,000 march against country’s ‘Islamisation’ in eastern Germany

Key oil producers face uncertain outlook in 2015

Gulf stock markets tumble

Australia mourns Sydney cafe siege victims

Hostages flee as police storm Sydney café

Erdogan to EU: Mind your own business!

Syria PM in Iran for talks with key ally

22 Swiss jihadists fighting abroad

#illridewithyou: Australians stand in solidarity with Muslims

Sydney siege 'lone wolf' or IS-led attack?

EU support UN efforts for Aleppo ceasefire

Saudi policeman killed in Riyadh hostage-taking

Saudi king receives Jordan monarch

Palestinians push UN bid to end Israeli occupation

Hostages held in Sydney cafe, Islamic flag held up

Hamas stages show of strength to mark 27th anniversary

France 'neutralised' 200 jihadists in Sahel region of West Africa

Kerry in Rome ahead of Palestinian push at UN

Drive-by shooting kills two Egypt policemen in Sinai Peninsula

Libya pro-government forces push back Islamist fighters