Liberals gain edge in Libya vote
Libyan NTC leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil hugs Nouri al-Alabbar (R), Chairman of the Electoral Commission National Congress, as PM Abdurrahim El-Keib watches in Tripoli. REUTERS photoLibya’s liberal coalition beat Islamist parties in the first poll since the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, according to results unveiled on July 17, but it remained unclear who will dominate the next congress.
The National Forces Alliance, a liberal coalition led by wartime Prime Minister Mahmud Jibril, gained 39 of 80 seats open to parties in the General National Congress, the first elected authority after more than four decades of dictatorship, Agence France-Presse reported. The Justice and Construction Party, which was launched by Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, took only 17 seats.
A further 120 seats were allotted to independent candidates whose allegiances are hard to pin down. The two leading parties are courting independents and smaller entities in a bid to form a dominant bloc within the congress, where major decisions and legislation require a two-thirds majority to pass. If liberals do manage to hold sway over the assembly, Libya, unlike neighboring Tunisia and Egypt whose strongmen were also toppled in last year’s Arab Spring, will buck the trend of electoral success for Islamist movements. The NFA coalition brings together some 60 parties and independent figures, led by technocrats who lived abroad and advocate a moderate Islam, economic liberalization and openness to the West. NFA leader Jibril, who played a key role drumming up international support for the 2011 revolution that toppled Gadhafi’s regime, has called for all parties to join a national unity dialogue in a bid to form an even broader coalition. Meanwhile Mohammed Sawan, head of the Justice and Construction Party, has expressed confidence that a large number of independents in the congress will side with Islamists.
NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen yesterdat hailed Libya’s elections as “an impressive step forward” in the country’s road to democracy. The results come 10 days after landmark elections hailed by world leaders.