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.

 

Egypt renews calls for creation of joint military force at Arab summit

Torturous Iran talks move into top gear in battle of wills

Qaeda seizes 'majority' of Syria northwestern city of Idlib

Saudi ambassador to return to Sweden after diplomatic spat

Oil prices fall after Yemen-inspired gains

Libya forces ‘withdraw’ from frontline bases near oil ports

UN Security Council keeps Libya arms embargo in place

Saudi-led airstrikes target arms depots in Yemen capital

Death toll from hotel attack rises as fighting continues in Somalia

Turkish parliament passes security bill after long debate

Turkey army chief of staff visits historic tomb inside Syria

Saudi-led coalition keeps up raids against Yemen rebels

Assad says open to dialogue with US

US backs Saudi-led intervention in Yemen

Heavy Saudi raids force Sanaa residents to flee

Israeli Arab MP walks for Bedouins

Gulf stocks regain ground after early losses over Yemen

Kerry presses Iran on nuclear deal before deadline

Somali pirates seize Iranian fishing vessel

Borse Dubai sells big stake in London Stock Exchange

Can Arabs form joint military force?

Libya rivals discuss UN-backed peace proposals

French President to join 'anti-terror' march in Tunis

Sisi underscores Egypt’s rights to tap Nile water

US-led coalition aircraft bomb Tikrit

Saudi warplanes strike Yemen rebels in Sanaa

Netanyahu to form Israel new government after shock victory

Turkey military responds to Kurdish attacks in southeast

Leaders see horror of air crash as investigators step up probe

Fistfight in Iraqi Kurdish parliament

Syria rebels seize ancient town of Busra Sham

UN reveals plethora of abuses against activists in Libya

IS attack kills 5 militia fighters in Libya city of Sirte

Yemen President ‘in safety’ as rebel forces advance

US considering launching air strikes on Tikrit

Yemen Huthis seizes key airbase near Aden

'Feminist' policy costing dear to Sweden

Obama says row with Netanyahu ‘substantive’

Tunisia honours victims of deadly attack on national museum

Roadside bomb kills two Egypt soldiers in restive Sinai

‘Islamic State’ woos Syria children with money: More than 400 recruited in 2015 alone

Huthi-led militia push on southern Yemen

US envoy to Libya leaves Twitter after barrage of online abuse

US provides 'eye in the sky' to support Iraq Tikrit operation

Turkey prosecutors launch probe as ruling party rift grows