First nationwide vote in post-Gaddafi Libya

The elections saw violence in the restive east, leading many polling stations to close due to acts of sabotage.

Updated: Jul 09, 2012, 00:21 AM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Tripoli: Over 60 % of Libyans rushed to elect a new parliament in their first nationwide vote held in decades after Gaddafi’s ouster, country’s election commission said on Sunday.

Nuri al-Abbar, the head of Libyan Election Commission said that so far the counting had reached 1.6 million.

The elections saw violence in the restive east, leading many polling stations to close due to acts of sabotage.

According to Nuri al-Abbar, 24 out of 1,554 polling stations failed to open due to unceasing violence and vandalism.

One person was killed and two wounded in a gunbattle between security forces and anti-election protesters in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, according to the head of the election commission.

The shooting followed a spate of attacks on polling centers in the eastern half of the country, which was the cradle of the revolution against Gaddafi but has become increasingly angry over the perceived domination of power by rivals in Tripoli.

The vote capped a chaotic transition that has exposed major fault lines ranging from the east-west divide to efforts by Islamists to assert power.

Lines formed outside polling centers more than an hour before they opened in the capital Tripoli, with policemen and soldiers standing guard and searching voters and election workers before they entered.

"I have a strange but beautiful feeling today," dentist Adam Thabet said as he waited his turn to cast a ballot. "We are free at last after years of fear. We knew this day would come, but we were afraid it would take a lot longer."

The election for a 200-seat parliament, which will be tasked with forming a new government, was a key milestone after a bitter civil war that ended Gaddafi`s four-decade rule.

It was the first time Libyans have voted for a parliament since 1964, five years before Gaddafi`s military coup that toppled the monarchy.

But the desert nation of 6 million people has fallen into
turmoil since Gaddafi was killed by rebel forces in his home city of Sirte in late October.

Armed militias operate independently, refusing to be brought under the umbrella of a national army, and deepening regional and tribal divisions erupt into violence with alarming frequency.

Growing resentment in the east and the inability to rein in unruly militias have threatened to tear the country apart. Some easterners boycotted the election and protesters torched ballot boxes in 14 out of 19 polling centers in Ajdabiya, said Ibrahim Fayed, a former rebel commander in the area.

On the eve of the vote, gunmen shot down a helicopter carrying polling materials near the eastern city of Benghazi, birthplace of last year`s revolution, killing one election worker on board, according to Saleh Darhoub, a spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council. The crew survived after a crash landing.

The violence continued today, with protesters, some armed, attacking polling centers in the early hours in the eastern cities of Ajdabiya, Brega and Ras Lanouf, ransacking them and setting ballot papers ablaze.

Reflecting the lawlessness that has plagued the country since Gaddafi`s ouster, protesters attacked a polling station in Benghazi only to be driven back by voters who fired their own weapons in the air, independent candidate Faiza Ali said. "Enough with the bloodshed," she said.

With PTI Inputs