Libya announces early results of assembly elections

Early results suggested liberal candidates did well in the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi

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Libya’s electoral commission Saturday announced the preliminary results from polls for an assembly to draw up a new constitution, although 13 of 60 seats remained vacant after unrest in several areas stopped voting.

The election to choose the body to draft a new constitution had been billed as a milestone in the country’s transition from the 42-year dictatorship of Muammar Qaddafi, but failed to spark enthusiasm among voters.

Political parties were not officially represented at the vote, which was organized on February 20, and only individuals were allowed to present themselves as candidates.

Early results suggested liberal candidates did well in the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi, which has been a hotbed of Islamist unrest since Qaddafi’s ouster in October 2011.

But the electoral commission said voting had not taken place in 93 out of some 1,600 stations because of unrest and a boycott by minority groups in some areas.

Although the commission had reorganized ballots on Wednesday in areas where voting had been prevented on February 20, unrest once again stopped the vote from going ahead.

As well as the 11 seats left vacant because of violence, another two seats reserved for the Berber minority will remain empty after the community boycotted the vote in protest at the absence of mechanisms to guarantee its cultural rights under a future constitution.

The General National Congress, the country’s highest political authority, will decide what to do with the 13 vacant seats, the commission’s president Nuri al-Abbar said.

Abbar said the definitive results should be ready in two weeks, and that candidates would have a 12-day period to contest them.

The constituent assembly was due to have 60 members equally representing Libya’s three regions -- Fezzan in the south, Tripolitania in the west and Cyrenaica in the east -- along the lines of the country's 1951 constitution, which was abolished by Qaddafi in 1977.

Six seats on the assembly were reserved for the minority Tuareg, Toubou and Berber communities, as well as another six for women.

The body will also be based in the eastern town of Bayda, as it was during the 1951 constitution.

Turnout in voting on February 20 reached just 45 percent of the less than one-third of eligible voters who even bothered to register.

The figure was sharply down on the 2012 vote to the GNC, Libya’s first freely contested election held amid the euphoria that followed Qaddafi’s overthrow and killing the previous year.

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