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Against Odds, Libyans to Elect New Parliament

  • Elizabeth Arrott

Libyans head to the polls Wednesday for their second parliamentary elections since the 2011 toppling of leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Few Libyans are expected to participate in Wednesday’s vote for a new parliament. Only a quarter of the population is registered to take part, and the fear of violence may keep many of those away from the polls.

The central government holds little influence beyond the capital Tripoli, making security precautions tenuous.

U.N. official Ismail Ould Cheikh said the United Nations is trying to help with the vote.

"There are still political and security obstacles, and our operation may face these obstacles. The road forward is not going to be easy and for that reason the United Nations continues to provide support under a mandate from the Security Council," he said.

Ongoing battles

Forces loyal to renegade general Khalifa Haftar engaged in near daily combat with Islamist militants in Libya’s east.

Haftar, who for years enjoyed U.S. protection, has promised a ceasefire during the vote.

But rival militias, many armed by NATO forces during the 2011 uprising, continue to cause unrest across the nation.

Still, the head of Libya’s election commission remained hopeful the vote would proceed smoothly.

"Regarding our arrangements in Benghazi, they are going to plan," said Emad al-Sayeh, a high national elections commission chief. In the South we have no problems regarding the electoral process. Any security problems have no direct link to the electoral process."

High hopes

And some voters hold out hope the election will help shore up the power of the central government.

"God willing, this election will go according to plan and we expect that after everything that has happened recently, we will reach the foundation stage and people will start to move forward and the country will calm down, because the people are really tired of what's going on," said Mohammed al-Guarshaa, a Benghazi resident.

Observers caution counting ballots and forming a government after this party-list free election may take some time. More worrisome, they added, is which, if any, of the warring parties will recognize the outcome.