On Wednesday 11 July the head of Libya's largest Islamist party, Mohammed Sawan, refused to concede defeat in the country’s first free election in almost half a century, accusing its main liberal rival, Mahmoud Jibril, of "tricking" voters with insincere commitments to Islam. Sawan, leader of the Muslim Brotherhood's political arm, branded wartime prime minister Jibril as a former ally of ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi and said that Jibril's party could lose its lead once fuller results from Saturday's vote trickle in. However, the 200-seat assembly will be dominated by independent candidates who occupy 120 seats and whose allegiances are hard to pin down.
On Saturday 7 July Libya held its first free national elections since the toppling of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Partial tallies suggest broad support from across the country for the liberal National Forces Alliances (NFA) of Jibril. People voted for the assembly that will choose a prime minister before readying elections in 2013.
The National Forces Alliance
Electoral authorities were finalising the vote count as Mahmoud Jibril, called for national unity talks on Monday 9 July. "We extend an honest call for a national dialogue to come all together in one coalition, under one banner... to reach a compromise, a consensus on which the constitution can be drafted and the new government can be composed," said the NFA leader. The remarks came hours after the leader of the rival Justice and Construction Party admitted the NFA had an early lead in the vote count for the capital and Libya's second-largest city of Benghazi.
Faisal Krekshi, NFA secretary general, said: "Early reports show that the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies." Preliminary figures from the country's electoral commission showed that 1.7 million of the nearly 2.9 million eligible voters, or about 63 per cent, cast their ballots on Saturday. With 70% of the ballot counted in Benghazi, Jibril's NFA had won 95 733 votes in the constituency against just 16 143 for Justice and Construction. Other wins are indicated across the country for the alliance of 60 moderate parties, including in eastern towns such as Derna, long seen as a hard-line Islamist stronghold. It is unclear when the final results will be announced, but authorities hope the preliminary results will be released soon.
The United Nation's top official in Libya applauded on 7 July how the country conducted its first free and fair election in more than four decades, saying it went better than anyone could "reasonably have expected". Also the Arab League praised the successful conduct of elections.
Impossible to predict
In a country with no history of political parties and no national surveys, forecasting results is virtually impossible, but early media reports seemed to back the party leaders' claims. Al-Assima TV said the coalition was far ahead in the capital, scooping 80 per cent in the district of Tripoli Centre and 90 per cent in the impoverished district of Abu Slim. Its lead, the private channel said, was also strong in the troubled east, with preliminary figures giving it 70 per cent in Benghazi and 80 per cent in Al-Bayda, hometown of interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil. These figures were unofficial, however, and the commission warned it was best not to release numbers that could create false expectations or "confuse voters" if the results proved different. "The first winner is the Libyan people," said stressed election commission chief Nuri Abbar. Apart from acts of sabotage in the restive east, and one death in Ajdabiya as gunmen opened fire near a polling station, the vote was held in a festive atmosphere in major cities. On Sunday, eastern oil facilities resumed normal operations, an industry official said, after a three-day protest over the region not being granted more seats.
Sources: Al Jazeera; Reuters; BBC; HNEC