Libya election: Count under way after historic vote

Fireworks being lit in Libya's second city, Benghazi, after polling stations close in general elections on 7 July 2012 The end of voting on Saturday evening sparked celebrations

Vote-counting is under way in Libya, after the country held its first free national election for 60 years.

Partial results are expected later in the week, with some unofficial exit polls suggesting a liberal alliance was leading Islamist parties. Officials said turnout on Saturday was about 60%.

Voting continued in some areas where technical difficulties caused delays.

The 200-member assembly will choose the first elected government since Col Gaddafi came to power in 1969.

The last fully free parliamentary election was held soon after independence in 1952. The last national vote was held in 1965, when no political parties were allowed.

Liberal alliance's Mahmoud Jebril talks about how to reintegrate Libya's militias into society

On voting day there were pockets of unrest in the east, where there are fears the region will be under-represented in the new temporary assembly being elected.

US President Barack Obama said the election was "another milestone" in Libya's political transformation. Italy, the former colonial power, also hailed the vote.

More than 100 parties are competing in the poll, many of them formed only in recent months.

The most prominent party to emerge so far is the Justice and Construction Party, made up mostly of Muslim Brotherhood members.

Security issue

Ian Martin, head of the UN's mission in Libya, told the BBC that there were no indications of major concerns with the vote.

"Good news is there's been no problem in retrieving election materials from polling stations; most are on course in completing counting," he said.

He said several small towns in the east near Sirte were continuing to vote on Sunday because election materials had been delivered too late to complete the process on Saturday.

In the capital Tripoli there were jubilant scenes late on Saturday, with fireworks lighting the sky as polling stations closed.

"The priorities for the coming period are security and justice for the Libyan people and rebuilding Libya on a secure basis," Mehmet Hawaz, a doctor, told the Associated Press television news.

Start Quote

"The priorities for the coming period are security and justice for the Libyan people and rebuilding Libya on a secure basis”

End Quote Mehmet Hawaz Libyan voter

Another voter Mohammed Eid, a former political prisoner, said Libyans now have high expectations for the future.

"The Libyan people want to rebuild their country on solid ground with a good constitution, one that expresses the aspirations of the people and gives strong laws that will help build the country with strong institutions," he said.

Ballot boxes are being sent to counting centres around the country - and expectations are high, correspondents say.

The liberal National Forces Alliance led by former Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril was in the lead in many constituencies in the capital as well as the eastern city of Benghazi, unofficial exit polls taken by the Libya Herald suggested.

"Early reports show that the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies," the secretary general of the alliance, Faisal Krekshi, told AFP news agency.

AFP quoted the leader of one of Libya's main Islamist parties, Mohammed Sawan of the Justice and Construction party, acknowledging this early trend.

"The National Forces Alliance achieved good results in some large cities except Misrata. They have a net lead in Tripoli and in Benghazi," he said.

Peaceful

Voting began late in some cities where gunmen disrupted voting in several locations, including in Ras Lanuf, Brega and Ajdabiya - all in eastern Libya. One person was killed in a shooting near a polling station in Ajdabiya.

Libyan elections

  • 2.8 million registered voters from around 3-3.5 million eligible (45% women)
  • 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%)

Source: The UN and the Libyan Electoral High Commission (HNEC)

Despite the unrest, officials said voting had taken place in more than 98% of polling stations at some point on Saturday.

Many people in eastern Libya are concerned that the oil-rich area will be under-represented in the assembly and marginalised, as it was under Muammar Gaddafi's 42-year rule.

The region has been allotted only 60 seats in the 200-seat assembly, while the west will have 100 seats and the south 40, under the system devised by the outgoing National Transitional Council (NTC).

Some former rebels tried to derail the vote by targeting the oil industry, large parts of which are located in the east.

They have shut down several oil terminals, including those at Brega, Ras Lanuf and Sidra, and a significant part of Libya's oil exporting capacity has been disrupted.

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.

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