Libya prepares to vote amid tensions
Libyans will vote for a 200-seat House of Representatives that will replace the discredited General National Congress.
Al JazeeraLast updated: 24 Jun 2014 13:52
Third legislative election will take place on June 25 amid the worst violence Libya has seen in three years [AFP]
|Libyans go to the polls on June 25 to elect a new national parliament despite much of the country being in the grip of the worst violence since the 2011 uprising.|
The vote will be Libya's third legislative election since the declaration of liberation that signalled the end of the 2011 popular uprising against former Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi.
The 200-seat House of Representatives will replace the discredited General National Congress (GNC) which had become gridlocked in recent months in disputes between Islamists and their opponents.
On June 21 and 22, 11,000 registered Libyan voters in 13 foreign countries cast their votes in 22 voting stations, according to the Higher National Elections Committee (HNEC).
The vote on June 25 takes place against a backdrop of tribal skirmishes in the south and several weeks of attacks by the forces of former General Khalifa Haftar, who is backed by sections of the army and air force, against Islamist fighters in the eastern city of Benghazi.
HNEC, the election organisers, insist that all 1,300 polling stations will be open on election day, and Haftar's forces have pledged a ceasefire for the day.
But battles and air strikes on militia bases in Benghazi have left much of the city a war zone, casting doubts on voter security, while tribal skirmishes have left several dead in Sebha, the largest city in the southern Fezzan province.
Adding to the problems are calls for boycotts in western Libya among sections of the Amazigh, Tobu and Tuareg minorities, each concerned that it has not secured wide enough representation in the new parliament.
Organisers are also dealing with apathy among voters, with only 1.5 million of Libya's six million population registered to vote, less than half the number who registered for the elections in 2012 which were the first since the Arab uprisings.
Thirty of the 200 seats are reserved for female candidates, a quota system rights groups say is necessary to ensure some female participation, although female voter participation is high, accounting for 600,000 of registered voters.
Adding to the unpredictability of the result is that all seats are contested individually, a change from the previous congress which had a proportion allocated for political parties.
The political divide in Libya is complicated by political and ethnic rivalries, and the chaos and insecurity mean there have been no recent opinion polls. In the 2012 election, the nationalist National Forces Alliance won 48 percent of the vote, with the Justice and Construction Party led by the Muslim Brotherhood securing second place with 10 percent.
But diplomats say the atomised structure of Libyan politics makes predictions difficult. "Party machines are not very strong, it's going to be a hard one to call," said one diplomat.
Violence and boycotts marred voting in February for the commission tasked with writing Libya's constitution, with 13 of the 60 seats left unfilled. One Libyan official said that he thought a partial election would be better than none at all. "An election will take place in most constituencies, I am sure of that, so we will have a parliament," he said.
Along with the fighting raging in Benghazi, the new parliament will confront an 11-month-old blockade of the bulk of Libya's oil production which has cost the country $30bn in lost revenue. An agreement to end the blockade reached between rebel leaders and the government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni in April has broken down, and it remains to be seen if a new legislature can summon the authority to get the ports open.
On June 23, the European Union called for all sides to support the election, noting a "significant deterioration of the political and security situation in Libya".
Campaigning in the capital, Tripoli - the scene of sporadic clashes between rival militias in recent months - has been low-key, in part because the focus is on individual candidates rather than political parties.
"What everyone wants around here is some order, a bit of peace," said Hassan, a Tripoli student.
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