Libyans awaiting results of landmark election
Published Sunday, July 8, 2012 9:30AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, July 8, 2012 10:55PM EDT
A Canadian Liberal MP serving as an election observer in Libya Sunday said it was one of the best-run elections he had ever seen.
Ontario’s Jim Karygiannis told CTV News Channel that Libyans were going out of their way to be friendly, accommodating, transparent and open during the election Saturday.
“People were hugging us and saying, ‘thank you for NATO for doing this for us’. This was not an election, this was a party for these people,” Karygiannis said in a telephone interview.
A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada stands with Libyans as they work to entrench democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law.
The election results are expected within a week.
Meanwhile, a liberal alliance party led by a former Libyan rebel prime minister said Sunday the party's unofficial preliminary results showed it was in the lead in the country's first parliamentary election since the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
Faisal Krekshi, secretary general of the Alliance of National Forces led by Mahmoud Jibril, said he was basing his results on reports by party representatives at ballot counting centres across the nation. He gave no details and the head of the election commission refused to confirm Krekshi's announcement.
"We are all waiting and we have nothing to suggest that one party is ahead of others," election commission chief Nouri al-Abar told reporters. He also refused to set a date for announcing the full official results.
Libyans voted Saturday for the 200-seat legislature. Eighty seats are set aside for party lists and the remaining 120 are for individual independent candidates.
Officials from two other parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Construction Party, said Jibril's alliance was the biggest winner in the race for the 80 party seats.
They also said they were basing their statements on party representatives at polling centres. They did not provide a breakdown, and their claims could not be verified.
The vote capped a chaotic transition that has exposed major fault rifts in the country, ranging from the east-west divide to efforts by Islamists to assert power.
It was a key milestone after a bitter civil war that ended Gadhafi's four-decade rule, and was the first time Libyans have voted for a parliament since 1964, five years before Gadhafi's military coup that toppled the monarchy.
But the desert nation of six million people has fallen into turmoil since Gadhafi was killed by rebel forces in his home city of Sirte in late October.
Armed militias operate independently, refusing to be brought under the umbrella of a national army, and deepening regional and tribal divisions that often devolve into bouts of violence.
Many people in eastern Libya resent what they perceive as a power grab by their rivals in the west. Some easterners boycotted Saturday's election in protest, and there was a spate of attacks on polling centres in the east that, in some cases, halted voting in some areas.
Al Abar, the election commission chief, said preliminary figures showed 1.7 million of nearly 2.9 million eligible voters, or about 63 per cent, cast their ballots Saturday.
He also said that voters who were not able to cast their ballots for security reason were allowed to vote on Sunday.
The vote was characterized by scenes of joy and a sense of triumph by Libyans emerging from more than four decades of repressive one-man rule under Gadhafi.
They stayed out celebrating on the streets well after polls closed at 8 p.m. Fireworks lit the Tripoli sky, motorists honked their horns and stores stayed open well past midnight.
There were also shouts of "Libya is free" by rebel fighters deployed throughout the capital in anticipation of any violence. They flashed fingers stained by the purple ink to show they had voted.
With files from The Associated Press