By Luis Sanchez
Despite calls for a nationwide boycott and an escalation in violence, 80 percent of Libya’s eligible registered voters headed to polls in the first round of voting on Saturday as the main liberal coalition claimed an early lead, the AFP reported.
The National Forces Alliance (NFA), a liberal party coalition, led by the former head of the National Transitional Council (NTC) Mahmud Jibril, claimed to have the group leading in the polls. The secretary general of the NFA, Faisal Krekshi, said the “early reports show the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies” according to a report by AFP.
This claim has been backed by Mohammed Sawan, the leader of the Justice and Construction party, who has been quoted saying he believed the NFA has “achieved good results in some large cities except Misrata.”
“They have a net lead in Tripoli and in Benghazi,” Sawan told the AFP.
Despite the violence that has marred Libya in the run up to the elections, there is an overwhelming sense of joy in the major cities, where the actual number of eligible and registered voters is highest. The NFA’s main opponents are the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Justice and Construction party, and Al-Wattan, an Islamist party led by Abdelhakim Belhadj. Belhadj was a former member of the Taliban, who was captured in Malaysia by the US Central Intelligence Agency in 2004, and was subsequently imprisoned in Libya for 7 years.
A major source of the unrest in Libya has come from the uneven distribution of parliamentary seats, with 100 seats allocated to the west, where the voter registration is also the highest, 60 seats to the east and 40 to the south. Many of the previous rebel groups have turned to violence as a reaction to what they have perceived to be unjust treatment and representation. In the east, many Libyans feel discontent towards the interim government due to the fact that most of the region’s oil is sent to Tripoli in the west, while the east receives little compensation in return, prompting armed groups to shut down oil terminals.
The outgoing NTC has also said they believe the next government should base the constitution on Shari’a law, which seems to be accepted across the board amongst the candidates. There are over 3,700 candidates vying for 200 seats within parliament.