Libyans hold up their ink-marked fingers that shows they have voted as they celebrate in Martyrs’ Square in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012 (AP/UNB Photo)
On 17th July, results from Libya’s first elections after the overthrow of Col Gaddafi have shown gains for an alliance of parties seen as broadly liberal.
The National Forces Alliance, led by ex-interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, has won 39 out of 80 seats reserved for political parties. The Muslim Brotherhood’s party has gained 17.
The 200-member National Assembly will also include dozens of independent candidates. Many people in eastern Libya are concerned that the oil-rich area will be under-represented in the assembly. The region has been allotted only 60 seats in the 200-seat assembly. Under the system devised by the outgoing National Transitional Council (NTC), which led the campaign against Gaddafi, 100 seats are allocated to the west and 40 to the south.
Some in the east fear being marginalised as they were for decades under Col Muammar Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, our correspondent says. In an attempt to defuse the situation, the NTC has said the new parliament will no longer be responsible for naming the panel that will draft Libya’s new constitution. The 60-member committee will be elected in a separate vote at a later date.
Libya’s election contrasts starkly with those in Egypt and Tunisia, where well-organized Islamic groups (Muslim Brotherhood) have come to dominate the political landscape. It helps tamp fears voiced last year in Western capitals that Libya’s disparate groups of well-armed religious militias might seize control following Moammar Gadhafi’s overthrow.
Mr. Jibril’s coalition is unlikely to be able to form a government on its own, because of how the 200 seats in Libya’s new National Congress are allocated. Only 80 seats are reserved for political groups. The other 120 are reserved for individual races. The Alliance can invite into a grand ruling coalition, several of these independent front-runners said.
In an interview with the BBC last week Mr Jibril called on parties to form a coalition government, something which rival politicians tentatively welcomed.
Libyans have voted in their first free election on 7th July for more than 50 years. They are selecting a temporary assembly which will have the task of picking a cabinet and a prime minister. Around 2.9 million people are eligible to vote for the 3,700 candidates standing for the new General National Congress, in Libya’s first national vote since Col Gaddafi was toppled in October 2011 after an eight-month uprising.
Some electoral statistics are as follows:
• 2.8 million registered voters from around 3-3.5 million eligible (45% women) of total population of 9.6 million as of 2011
• 2,639 individual candidates (competing for 120 seats in 69 constituencies)
• 374 party lists from more than 100 political entities (competing for 80 party seats in 20 constituencies)
• 559 women registered for party seats (44%)
• 88 women registered for individual seats (3%)
The leader of the National Forces Alliance is Mahmud Jibril, a former professor of political science of Pittsburgh USA, who played a prominent role as rebel Prime Minister during the revolt against Gaddafi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party.
“Words cannot capture my joy, this is a historic day,” Fawziya Omran, 40, told AFP news agency. “I’ve made my choice. I hope it is the right choice and that the candidate will not disappoint us.”
BBC correspondent in Tripoli writes that “for Libya’s mostly young population, this is an exciting time. You can see it in their wide grins at the polls as they proudly wave their ink-stained fingers. For the elderly, some of whom last voted almost 50 years ago, it is just as important to be here. I saw an old man with damaged eyesight, who could barely walk, being ushered in by his son. Other voters quickly brought a chair to him so he could rest and then carried him upstairs to vote, chanting “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is great”.
US President Obama said the election was “another milestone in “Libya’s political transformation.
Brief profile on Libya:
Libya’s society is tribal and traditional—despite liberal laws on issues such as women’s rights—and many Libyans identify via clan allegiance first, nationality second. During the regime of King Idriss, it had three separate provinces with different tribes. Benghazi has been the supporters of King Idriss and his tribes.
Libya has been ruled for 42 years by a repressive, eccentric dictator Muammar Gaddafi who promoted himself as “Colonel” after the coup he led in 1969. He has frequently described his own people as “backwards.”
Libya has changed immeasurably since Col Gaddafi’s downfall. There is, almost everywhere, a palpable sense of freedom and openness. No-one here talks seriously of a return to the past.
More than half of his 6.5 million subjects are under 18. Despite Libya’s plentiful oil revenues, which represent most of the national budget, many children suffer from malnutrition. Unemployment stands at 30 percent. People who have jobs often work only part-time.
Basic commodities—including rice, sugar, flour, gasoline—are heavily subsidized by the government and sold for a fraction of their true cost. A 2006 New Yorker article described Libya’s “prosperity without employment and large population of young people without a sense of purpose.”
Oil is the economy in Libya and oil profits have bankrolled massive investments in education and infrastructure—yet Libya lags far behind other oil-rich Arab states.
Even though some former rebels have been drafted into a makeshift national army, there is a complete lack of central government authority in many parts of Libya. Here real power lies in the hands of the heavily armed brigades.
Barrister Harun ur Rashid, Former Bangladesh Ambassador to the UN, Geneva.
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