ISSN 2330-717X

Libyans Celebrate Election Success

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By Essam Mohamed

Even as Libyans “faced threats to their security”, Saturday’s poll was “well-conducted and transparent”, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Monday (July 9th).

“We’ve succeeded in the election with the strong participation of the Libyan people. We’ll support anyone chosen by the Libyan people,” National Transitional Council (NTC) member Othman Bin Sassi told Magharebia.

“Libyan people will make the right choices,” the NTC member added.

The official results are expected on Monday.

Meanwhile, the National Forces Alliance, headed by Mahmoud Jibril, claimed that the coalition of liberal parties was “leading the polls in the majority of constituencies”, party Secretary-General Faisal Kreshki told AFP.

The leader of one of Libya’s main Islamist parties dismissed the preliminary reports as “media hype”.

“There are no real indications as to who won,” said Mohammed Sawan, who heads the Justice and Construction party.

The High Independent Electoral Commission called on its centres to avoid “any statements on results to any entity before the central commission approved such results”.

Meanwhile, Jibril on Sunday launched an appeal for “a national dialogue to come altogether in one coalition, under one banner”.

The Al-Watan Party, led by Tripoli military leader Abdul Hakim Belhaj, also released a call for unity.

Libyans need to “unite their efforts, co-operate, reject differences and discord, give priority to the nation and citizens, and to be all servants of Libya”, the party said in a statement.

Voter turnout reached 62%, the electoral body announced on Sunday, ranging from 72% in Tripoli to 41% in Sirte.

Contrary to all expectations, 69% of eligible voters cast ballots in Benghazi, which had witnessed massive demonstrations against the elections. Benghazi residents had protested the distribution of the General National Congress seats.

According to the law passed by the NTC, 100 seats in the 200-member legislative assembly will be allocated for the western regions, 60 for the east and 40 for the south.

To ease the tensions, the NTC amended the powers of the congress, stripping it of the constitution-drafting function. The assembly will form a 60-strong constituent assembly within a month after its first meeting. Its members will represent the three regions and will not be picked from the General National Congress.

In an attempt to reassure secularists and Amazighs, the NTC also reversed a decision about holding a referendum on the application of Sharia.

Political activist Yousef al-Zaidi told Magharebia that these amendments were not acceptable to all parties.

Celebrations erupted across the country after the polls closed at 8pm Saturday and continued into the night. Amid the car honking and chants, demonstrators waved Libyan flags and raised their ink-dipped fingers, which now represent a symbol of challenge.

The historic vote, however, did not pass without a hitch. On Friday, a helicopter loaded with election supplies came under attack, killing a young man

In Benghazi, anti-election protests blended with angry outpourings of football fans, disappointed at Libya’s loss to Morocco. Gunshots were heard across the city, and some polling stations were attacked Saturday morning.

Some residents volunteered to protect polling stations and voters.

“Things calmed down in Benghazi after midday and security was established,” Hmida Almogrbe, a student of the Institute of Architecture, told Magharebia. “In the evening, after the weather became cooler, people went in big numbers to ballot boxes.”

“I was personally against the election,” Almogrbe added. “However, when I saw how happy citizens were about voting, I couldn’t control myself. I can’t miss Libyans’ joy. Therefore, I decided to take part although I’m not satisfied with the distribution of seats which has done injustice to Benghazi.”

From Gharyan, 84km west of Tripoli, media activist Abdul Baset Abu Arqub told Magharebia, “The election has been wonderful and great in the best possible way, and has exceeded expectations. The people voted.”

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The Magharebia web site is sponsored by the United States Africa Command, the military command responsible for supporting and enhancing US efforts to promote stability, co-operation and prosperity in the region.

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