Fri, Jul 13, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Libya’s Jibril extends vote lead with Benghazi rout

‘NO’ TO ISLAMISTS:The National Forces Alliance looks to have won a huge victory, but party list votes will only decide 80 seats of the 200-seat parliament

Reuters, TRIPOLI

The National Forces Alliance (NFA) of Libyan wartime prime minister Mahmoud Jibril extended its lead over Islamists in landmark free elections with a landslide victory in the eastern city of Benghazi, new partial vote tallies showed on Wednesday.

The North African country’s first national vote in six decades has been hailed as a success by observers despite election-day bloodshed that claimed at least two lives.

Results from Saturday’s election so far point to a crushing defeat for the Justice and Construction Party (JCP) that is the political arm of Libya’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood — a sharp break with the electoral gains chalked up by Islamists in other Arab Spring countries such as Egypt or Tunisia.

Benghazi, the cradle of last year’s uprising against former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, has been not only a JCP hub, but also saw violent election-day protests against the vote by easterners who want more autonomy from the capital, Tripoli.

However, with 70 percent of the ballot counted, Jibril’s NFA had won 95,733 votes in the constituency against just 16,143 for Justice and Construction, official tallies showed.

That followed other wins right across the country for the alliance of about 60 moderate parties, including in eastern towns such as Derna, long seen as a hardline Islamist stronghold.

The national election commission initially said it would have preliminary results ready by Wednesday, but it is still not clear when it will have even partial returns from Tripoli.

In any case, the gains of the Western-educated Jibril do not automatically translate into dominance of the 200-seat national assembly that is to choose a prime minister and Cabinet before setting the stage for full parliamentary elections next year.

This is because candidates on party lists have only been allotted 80 seats, meaning they will be outnumbered by independent candidates whose allegiances are hard to pin down.

“With our own numbers we are almost certain that we have the majority in the independent seats,” JCP head Mohammed Sawan said. “Maybe the final result will show that Justice and Construction is the leading party,” he said.

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