Liberals Claim Early Lead in Libya Vote Countإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Liberals claimed an early lead on Sunday in vote counting across the country after Libya held its first free elections following Moammar Gadhafi’s ouster, winning plaudits from the international community.
If the trend is confirmed, Libya, unlike neighboring Tunisia and Egypt whose strongmen were also toppled in last year's Arab Spring, will buck the trend of electoral success for Islamist movements.
"Early reports show that the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies," the secretary general of the National Forces Alliance (NFA), Faisal Krekshi, told Agence France Presse.
The alliance which groups more than 40 small parties is headed by Mahmoud Jibril who played a prominent role as rebel prime minister during last year's popular revolt that toppled strongman Gadhafi and ended his four-decade rule.
The leader of one of Libya's main Islamist parties, also basing his assessment on their vote count observers, acknowledged the rival coalition had the edge in the country's two largest cities.
"The National Forces Alliance achieved good results in some large cities except Misrata. They have a net lead in Tripoli and in Benghazi," said Mohammed Sawan, who heads the Justice and Construction party.
"But it is a tight race for us in the south," added Sawan, a former political prisoner and member of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, which launched the party.
The bulk of Libya's population and registered voters are concentrated in the capital, which lies in the west of the oil-rich desert country, and in the eastern city of Benghazi.
The spokesman for Jibril's coalition in Benghazi said initial information indicated that it had garnered the most votes there.
"In some centers, we are leading by a wide margin," Ibrahim al-Gharyiani told Agence France Presse.
"What appealed to the voters about our alliance is that we had a clear program and we did not exaggerate," he said.
Libyans on Saturday voted for a General National Congress, a 200-member legislative assembly which will steer the country through a transition period. Turnout was above 60 percent, the electoral commission said.
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, who heads a team of 21 European Union observers, said large numbers of Libyans had voted "peacefully and free of fear and intimidation."
A total of 80 seats in the incoming congress are reserved for political entities while the remaining 120 are held for individual candidates, some of whom are openly allied to specific parties.
Votes were still being tallied with preliminary results expected by Monday night or early Tuesday.
But early media reports seemed to back the party leaders' claims.
Private channel Al-Assima TV said the coalition was far ahead in the capital, scooping 80 percent in the district of Tripoli Center and 90 percent in the impoverished district of Abu Slim.
Its lead, the channel said, was also strong in the troubled east, with preliminary figures giving it 70 percent in Benghazi and 80 percent in Al-Bayda, hometown of interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
These figures were unofficial, however.
"The first winner is the Libyan people," declared a beaming Nuri Abbar, head of the electoral commission, at the end of a rollercoaster voting day which was briefly clouded by unrest in the east.
Apart from acts of sabotage in restive eastern Libya and one death in Ajdabiya as unknown gunmen opened fire near a polling station, the vote was held in a festive atmosphere in the major cities.
Benghazi election commission chief Jamal Bugrien said six out of 174 polling stations in the Greater Benghazi area were affected by protests such as ballot burning. But they later reopened and overall voting went smoothly.
He put overall turnout for the region at 67 percent.
On Sunday, oil facilities in eastern Libya resumed normal operations, an industry official said, after a three-day protest over the region not being granted more seats.
U.S. President Barack Obama led a chorus of praise for Saturday's historic vote.
"On behalf of the American people, I extend my congratulations to the people of Libya for another milestone on their extraordinary transition to democracy," Obama said.
Italy's foreign minister Giulio Terzi hailed a "watershed" moment for its former colony and crucial energy source, while France congratulated the Libyan people on the strong turnout and the "Libyans' strong mobilization" in the election.
Moncef Marzouki, the president of neighboring Tunisia, where the Arab Spring revolts began, congratulated Abdel Jalil and expressed his "total support" for the transition process.