Libya elections: Early results in Libyan poll show liberal forces doing well

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by ejazr, Jul 9, 2012.

  1. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Early results in Libyan poll show liberal forces doing well - The Irish Times - Mon, Jul 09, 2012

    LIBYA MAY buck the trend that has seen Islamist parties dominate elections held after the toppling of autocratic leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, with unofficial results from its historic weekend poll appearing to indicate a strong showing from more liberal forces.

    UN envoy Ian Martin said official results were not expected for about five days, but representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Justice and Construction Party (JCP) and a coalition led by former interim prime minister Mahmoud Jibril said early tallies showed high counts for Mr Jibril’s group, particularly in the capital, Tripoli, and Libya’s second-largest city, Benghazi.

    Mr Jibril, who served as director of planning in Col Muammar Gadafy’s government, has proved a polarising figure over the last year. Islamists sought to paint his coalition as “liberal” or “secular” – terms often viewed negatively in conservative Libya – but, like most other political entities participating in the election, it vowed to make Sharia law a main source of legislation.

    On Saturday, Libyans queued in baking heat to cast ballots in the first national election in more than four decades – during Gadafy’s 42 years in power political parties and elections were not permitted. Most were voting for the first time.

    Among them was Dr Adam Busidra, a surgeon who spent six years in jail without charge as a suspected dissident. Holding his voter ID card, he said: “I will keep this until I die. I feel Libya is reborn from today. We are finally free.”

    The ballot was held to select Libya’s new 200-strong national assembly, which will appoint another interim government ahead of parliamentary elections due to be held after a constitution is drafted.

    Libya’s electoral commission put voter turnout at 65 per cent and election observers said the voting process ran smoothly overall, despite a number of isolated incidents in which polling stations were attacked by pro-federalist protesters in Benghazi and other parts of eastern Libya.

    “It was a great day for Libya, and a great day for our revolution,” said Dr Fatima Hamroush, who left her job as a consultant ophthalmologist in Drogheda last year to become Libya’s health minister.

    “We have taken another important step in the journey towards rebuilding our country.”

    As polling stations closed on Saturday night, thousands of families took to the streets of Benghazi, cradle of the revolution that led to Gadafy’s dislodging last year, to celebrate. Fireworks exploded overhead as people sang and danced.

    “Raise your head up high, you are a free Libyan,” they chanted, a line that became popular during the revolution
     
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  3. ejazr

    ejazr Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    Ann Marlowe: A Triumph for Democracy in Libya - WSJ.com

    I was surprised and touched to receive holiday greetings from Libyan friends around the Fourth of July. Mohamed Hilal El Senussi, a grandnephew of Libya's first and last king, emailed: "I would like to extend to you and your family my very best wishes. May God bless America." His sentiment was clear: Libyans love free Libya as much as we love America.

    Most Libyans admire America and our heritage of liberty. It helps that the U.S. government—unlike Britain's or Italy's or France's—never cozied up to Gadhafi. And this Fourth of July held a special resonance for Libyans: They took to the polls on July 7 in the first free multiparty elections since a vote in 1952 that was restricted to men and cast without secret ballots.

    Several of my acquaintances were among the 4,000 candidates for the 200-seat General National Congress, which is to form a ministerial government to replace the Transitional National Council. One independent who lost, archeologist Shawki Moammar, still sounded thrilled as he told me on the evening of July 8 that the National Forces Alliance led by Mahmoud Jibril was leading.

    This coalition is not liberal or secular in the Western sense, but it supports a civil state and is opposed to the values of the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party. Mr. Moammar said, "Now I am not scared for the Libyan people. We are not like Egypt and Tunisia. I am very happy to see democracy for the first time in Libya."

    Libyans distrusted the Brotherhood for a few reasons, including the feeling that it had too much foreign money to spend. And precisely because Islam imbues their worldview, Libyans feel the faith is too precious to be legislated. A winning candidate, Amina Megheirbi, the second-ranked of 11 candidates on the Alliance list in Benghazi, is a devout Muslim. But the hijab-wearing, U.S.-educated founder of one of the country's biggest civil society organizations is a firm advocate of women's full participation in society.

    Libyans were jubilant because 1,453 out of 1,554 polling centers opened. They were proud that voting in the western part of the country proceeded peacefully. The bad news is that 101 centers in the east closed, and a couple of election workers were killed.

    Tensions have grown between the eastern part of the country, Cyrenaica, where the revolution began on Feb. 17, 2011, and the more recently liberated Tripolitanian region. Some Cyrenaicans protested the election, claiming that the number of seats allotted to their region did not reflect their population. They organized an oil export slowdown last week.

    Some say that the separatist movement in the east is fueled by Gadhafi's henchmen, who want a fragmented Libya they can continue to dominate. But it is also true that Cyrenaica and Tripolitania have been distinct cultural regions for some 2,000 years. They're as far apart as Paris and Rome, or about 700 miles. While Americans have been quick to speak of "tribalism," it's more useful to see Libya as a collection of multi-tribal city-states. "We need dialogue," says Ms. Megheirbi.

    There's also been a Chicken Little attitude toward the security situation in Libya—some of it fomented by those trying to sell private security services to foreigners operating there. While armed city militias are rampant, the actual amount of violence pales compared to that in any midsize American city. The upside of a small, closely knit society still alive to the concept of honor is that by and large people police themselves. In Benghazi on election day, ordinary people formed human shields to protect the polling stations.

    As this suggests, Libyans have an American-style "do-it-yourself" spirit, the same spirit that led them to form hundreds of civil society associations during their revolution, and to keep the liberated portions of the country supplied with food, power, mobile phone service and security in the absence of a formal government.

    Libya was home to the Arab world's first democracy, the "Republic of Tripolitania," proclaimed in 1918 in the same Nafusa mountains that sheltered the revolutionaries in 2011. Something in Libyans is congenial to democracy, and most Americans who visit Libya—like Sen. John McCain, who visited again to observe the elections—recognize in Libyans a kindred spirit.

    Libyans don't want or need American aid money, or our military, though they could use some American expertise. What they really want is our respect, as equals, from one people who freed themselves to another. So let us welcome Libya to the company of free nations. Like our nation in its infancy, they have a republic, if they can keep it.

    Ms. Marlowe, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, has traveled to Libya five times since the revolution began.
     
  4. asianobserve

    asianobserve Elite Member Elite Member

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