Liberals lead first free poll in Libya

Liberals lead first free poll in Libya

Liberals lead first free poll in Libya

Libyans wave flags as they celebrate in the streets of Tripoli. EPA photo

Libyans are celebrating their first free national election in 60 years after defying violence to turn out for a poll widely seen as drawing a line under Moammar Gadhafi’s dictatorship, with liberals taking an early lead in Tripoli and Benghazi, according to first results.

 Revellers lit the night sky over the capital, Tripoli, with fireworks. In the eastern city of Benghazi, scene of anti-poll protests by those wanting more autonomy, people celebrated by firing rocket-propelled grenades in the direction of the sea, Reuters reported.

One man was shot dead by a security guard on July 7 as he tried to steal a ballot box in the eastern town of Ajdabiya.

Another was killed in gunfire in a clash between protesters and backers of the poll in Benghazi. As voting closed around the country, officials said 98 percent of poll centers had opened at some point during the day for the ballot for a 200-member assembly that will name a prime minister and pave the way for parliamentary elections in 2013. A total of 80 seats in the incoming congress are reserved for political entities while the remaining 120 are held for individual candidates.

The election commission said after voting ended that 1.6 million of some 2.8 million registered voters had cast their ballots, a turnout of just under 60 percent.

Candidates with Islamist agendas dominate the field of more than 3,700 hopefuls, suggesting Libya will be the next Arab Spring country, after Egypt and Tunisia, to see religious parties secure a grip on power. Although the results are expected to emerge today, liberals claimed an early lead.

“Early reports show that the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies,” the secretary general of the National Forces Alliance, Faisal Krekshi, told Agence France-Presse. The alliance of liberal forces is headed by Mahmud Jibril who played a prominent role as rebel prime minister during the popular revolt that toppled Gadhafi.

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