Libya to taste democracy in historic vote after Gadhafi

Libya to taste democracy in historic vote after Gadhafi

Libyans will vote in their first free national election since Moammar Gadhafi seized power in 1969 amid fears that current instability will continue to reign in the country.

More than 2,000 candidates are standing for election to the General National Congress (GNC), the legislative body which will replace the National Transitional Council (NTC), which led the campaign against Gadhafi. The body will form a temporary government, pick a prime minister and draft a constitution before another election next year. Once the new constitution is drafted a referendum will be held and if it establishes a parliamentary system, a full legislative poll will be held within six months.

Justice and Development tipped to do well

Among 2.8 million registered voters, however, many fear the country’s first taste of democracy will be hijacked by the militias who have flourished amid prevailing lawlessness, often with the help of regional loyalties. While Tripoli can go for days without disturbances, turf wars between heavily armed rival militias can explode into gunfights within seconds.

The recent storming of an election office in the eastern city of Benghazi by protesters who demanded greater powers for the region showed just how far Libya has to go in order to foster national unity.

While analysts say it is hard to predict the political make-up of Libya’s new assembly, parties and candidates professing an attachment to Islamic values dominate the ballot and very few candidates are running on an exclusively secular platform. The Justice and Development offshoot of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood is tipped to do well, as is al-Watan, the party of former CIA detainee and Islamist insurgent Abdel Hakim Belhadj.