Voting is underway across Libya to elect a new parliament. The election is seen as critical after years of turmoil and political unrest. Libyan citizens will vote for 200 members of an assembly to the General National Congress, the interim parliament elected in 2012. The election takes place three years after the revolution that drove dictator Moammar Gadhafi from power.
Candidates are required to run as individuals, rather than as nominees of political parties. Thirty-two parliamentary seats are reserved for women. Voters will choose from among 1,628 candidates.
Almost 3.5 million people are eligible to vote, but only 1.5 million have registered - far down from the 2.7 million people who registered to vote two years ago. Concerns over security in some eastern areas and a boycott by ethnic minorities in the south means polling cannot be held in all regions.
The poll comes days after Libya's interim parliament approved a long-overdue budget for 2014, worth some 34 billion euros ($46.29 billion), after a delay of half a year.
There had been much haggling over how to replace crucial oil revenues lost from almost a year of protests. Libya's oil-dependent economy took a beating when rebels blockaded export terminals last year, as part of their campaign for greater autonomy in the east.
Libya has also been rocked by a crisis in recent weeks that has seen two rival cabinets fighting for power, as well as violence in the country's east, where rogue general Khalifa Haftar is battling Islamists.
Libyan authorities have struggled to keep order since Gadhafi's ouster, amid political infighting and heavily armed militias jostling for influence.
An assembly elected in February is drawing up a permanent constitution.
Following Libya's first ever free polls in July 2012, the General National Assembly was accused of tying the hands of successive governments in taming militias, because of the body's executive and legislative authority.
In February, the assembly extended its mandate until December, sparking street protests and focing lawmakers to announce the election taking place on Wednesday.
jr/kms (dpa, AFP)