25 June 2014

Libya: Violence and Low Turnout Mar Libya Parliamentary Election

Voters in Libya have been to the polls to elect a new parliament that, it is hoped, might bring more political stability to the country. Turnout was low and there were some instances of violence, in one case deadly.

Low turnout and a deadly attack on troops providing security provided the backdrop to the Libyan general election on Wednesday, with the likely winner remaining unclear.

Islamists and their allies, who had a narrow majority in the departing parliament, were expected to lose ground in Wednesday's elections for the 200-member General National Congress (GNC).

A political stalemate between religious conservatives and secular moderates has left the government effectively paralyzed. All candidates in the latest election must stand as independents in a move aimed at reducing factionalism.

It is hoped that the election will make it possible to form a more stable government, which would help pave the way for the writing of a constitution and the election of a new president within 18 months.

Half an hour before polls closed, only 400,000 people were said to have voted, with about 1.5 million voters eligible to vote from a population of 6 million.

Soldiers killed, polling stations closed

At least three soldiers who were deployed to provide security on polling day in Libya's second city, Benghazi, were killed in what officials said was an attack by Islamists. The city has been a focus in fighting between Islamist militias and a renegade general who has charged himself with ridding the country of the rebels.

There was an explosion at a polling station in the city of Sirte, where militia are also strong.

There was no voting in the eastern town of Derna, which has a strong presence of Islamists, for fear of attacks on polling centers. In the southern Kufra region, only five out of 15 opened for "security reasons."

The GNC has served as Libya's highest political authority since the 2011 overthrow of the dictator Moammar Gadhafi, as the country struggles to build stability. Successive governments have blamed the powerful GNC for tying their hands in their battles against armed rebels, many of whom had originally helped to oust Gadhafi.

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