Sunday, July 8, 2012

Rather high turnout and not many incidents during Libyan elections

Libyans went to the polls Saturday in order to elect a General National Congress (GNC), an elected legislative authority which is to take over legislative powers from the National Transitional Council. It will be the first elected parliament since Colonel Muammar Gaddafi seized power in 1969.
In these first free elections in decades there weren't too many incidents. Protesters unhappy over the east's share of seats in the new assembly had targeted polling centres and also forced oil facilities to shut down ahead of the election. There were some brawls and one person was killed.  But according to Electoral commission chief Nuri al-Abar only 24 out of 1,554 polling stations had not been able to open their doors due to acts of sabotage, mostly in the east.
 Fireworks in Benghazi after the polling stations closed. (Reuters) 
Throughout the country the overall mood was festive, however. In Benghazi after the official end of polling the streets filled with joyous crowds and cars with blaring horns, as people fired celebratory gunshots into the air and let off fireworks, waved flags and flashed "V for victory". There  were similar scenes in the capital.
According to the electoral commission the turnout was 60 percent.  Final results aren't expected before Monday evening, although there are some indications that the liberal National Forces Alliance (see below) might be winning.
 The General National Congress will have 200 seats, which will be distributed according to demographics, with 100 going to the west, 60 to the east and 40 to the south. Of the total of 200 seats 80 are set apart for political parties. Exactly 2,639 independent candidates are vying for the remaining 120 seats. There were th 2.5 million registered voters distributed over 13 districts.

The main parties which were competing are listed below. (Source the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar) 
 The National Forces Alliance: A coalition of 65 liberal parties led by Mahmoud Jibril, the war-time rebel prime minister and US-educated political scientist. Jibril himself is not running. 
The Justice and Construction Party: The political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya, modelled on its Egyptian counterpart. Mohammed Sawan, a former political prisoner under Gaddafi heads the group. 
Al-Watan (Homeland): An Islamist group led by former rebel militia leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj. A leader of the now-defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which waged an insurgency against Gaddafi in the 1990s, Belhadj fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan.Critics say al-Watan is funded by Qatar, which was a key backer of last-year's NATO-backed rebellion against Gaddafi. 
National Front: Affiliated with the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, this is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood led by intellectual dissident Mohammed al-Magriaf. 
Al-Asala (The Root) : A Salafi Islamist group led by Sheikh Abdul Bassit Ghweila.

It is hoped that the General National Congress will be able to overcome the divisions in the country where
regional and tribal loyalties play a great role. But a first problem was already the distributions of the seats.

Factions in the east, which was marginalized under Gaddafi, wanted an equal split instead of the 100-60-40 formula and had threatened to sabotage the vote. As an answer to the objections of the easterners the outgoing government, the National Transitional Council, decided on Thursday, two days before the Libyans went to the urns, that "the election of a constituent committee tasked with drafting a national charter will be carried out through a separate election-process, instead of being appointed by the members of the incoming congress.  This decision stripped the General National Congress of what was considered one of its core functions. However, the GNC maintains its legislative powers and the prerogative of appointing a government. In the 60-member constituent authority the seats will be - contrary to what is the case in the  General National Congress - split evenly between the regions of Tripolitana in the west, Cyrenaica in the east and Fezzan in the south. This follows the model of the 1951 constitution, whereby Libya was divided into three administrative regions. King Idriss al-Senussi abolished the federal system in 1963.

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