Early results in Libyan poll show liberal forces doing well
LIBYA MAY buck the trend that has seen Islamist parties dominate elections held after the toppling of autocratic leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, with unofficial results from its historic weekend poll appearing to indicate a strong showing from more liberal forces.
UN envoy Ian Martin said official results were not expected for about five days, but representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Justice and Construction Party (JCP) and a coalition led by former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril said early tallies showed high counts for Mr Jibril’s group, particularly in the capital, Tripoli, and Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi.
Mr Jibril, who served as director of planning in Col Muammar Gadafy’s government, has proved a polarising figure over the last year. Islamists sought to paint his coalition as “liberal” or “secular” – terms often viewed negatively in conservative Libya – but, like most other political entities participating in the election, it vowed to make Sharia law a main source of legislation.
On Saturday, Libyans queued in baking heat to cast ballots in the first national election in more than four decades – during Gadafy’s 42 years in power political parties and elections were not permitted. Most were voting for the first time.
Among them was Dr Adam Busidra, a surgeon who spent six years in jail without charge as a suspected dissident. Holding his voter ID card, he said: “I will keep this until I die. I feel Libya is reborn from today. We are finally free.”
The ballot was held to select Libya’s new 200-strong national assembly, which will appoint another interim government ahead of parliamentary elections due to be held after a constitution is drafted.
Libya’s electoral commission put voter turnout at 65 per cent and election observers said the voting process ran smoothly overall, despite a number of isolated incidents in which polling stations were attacked by pro-federalist protesters in Benghazi and other parts of eastern Libya.
“It was a great day for Libya, and a great day for our revolution,” said Dr Fatima Hamroush, who left her job as a consultant ophthalmologist in Drogheda last year to become Libya’s health minister.
“We have taken another important step in the journey towards rebuilding our country.”
As polling stations closed on Saturday night, thousands of families took to the streets of Benghazi, cradle of the revolution that led to Gadafy’s dislodging last year, to celebrate. Fireworks exploded overhead as people sang and danced.
“Raise your head up high, you are a free Libyan,” they chanted, a line that became popular during the revolution.