News / Middle East

    Poor Turnout in Libyan Vote for Constitution-Drafting Body

    People look for their names at a polling station, Benghazi, Feb. 20, 2014.
    People look for their names at a polling station, Benghazi, Feb. 20, 2014.
    Reuters
    Libyans trickled to the polls on Thursday to elect an assembly to draft a constitution, with the paltry turnout reflecting deep political disillusion with the chaos pervading Libya since Moammar Gadhafi's 42-year rule ended in 2011.

    Only 360,000 people had cast ballots by the late afternoon, the election commission said, out of one million who had registered to vote — a number far lower than the three million who had registered before the 2012 parliamentary election.

    Live footage from Libyan television cameras in some main polling stations showed mostly empty rooms.

    Dawn explosions rocked five polling stations in the eastern town of Derna, an Islamist stronghold, but no one was hurt.

    Gunmen forced one Derna voting center to shut by firing in the air and shouting "voting is haram [forbidden]", an election official said. Derna polling stations stayed shut and insecurity prevented some voting centers in two other towns from opening.

    Nobody claimed responsibility for the Derna attacks but residents said the bombers had scrawled "There is no constitution but Islamic law" on a wall near the scene of one blast, suggesting radical Islamists were responsible.

    Prime Minister Ali Zeidan's government is struggling to assert its authority over militias which helped topple Gadhafi but kept their weapons and have become major political players.

    Two of the strongest militias threatened on Tuesday to dissolve the General National Congress (GNC), the interim parliament, accusing it of paralyzing Libya with its endless infighting.

    Libya desperately needs a viable government and system of rule so that it can focus on reconstruction and on healing the divisions exposed by the NATO-backed campaign against Gadhafi.

    Soldiers guarded polling stations in the capital Tripoli, as helicopters circled overhead. In the eastern city of Benghazi, gunmen threw a bag full of explosives into a voting center, but the devices did not go off, a security source said.

    "God willing, this is the starting point for democracy and freedom, which is what we came for," Hatem al-Majri said as he voted in Benghazi.

    Berber boycott

    The 60-strong constitutional committee, drawn equally from Libya's three regions of Tripolitania in the west, Cyrenaica in the east and Fezzan in the south, will have 120 days to draft the charter.

    Libya used a similar model for the committee that drafted a pre-Gadhafi constitution that was implemented when the country, then a monarchy, gained independence in 1951.

    The new document's authors will need to take into account political and tribal rivalries, as well as demands for more autonomy for the east, when deciding what political system Libya will adopt. Their draft will be put to a referendum.

    In the east, armed protesters have occupied major oil ports since the summer to demand a greater share of energy wealth and political autonomy, crippling vital oil exports. The protest group has dismissed Thursday's vote as fake.

    The election was also boycotted by the Amazigh, or Berber, minority which lives in the west near oil installations.

    Its leader, Ibrahim Makhlouf, has rejected the vote because the Amazigh wanted a bigger say in the body and guarantees that their tongue will become one of Libya's official languages.

    In the past, Amazigh have backed their demands by blockading oil installations such as the Mellitah oil and gas complex, co-owned by Italy's ENI, as well as pipelines.

    Attempts to write a constitution have been delayed by political infighting in the GNC, elected in July 2012 for an 18-month term in Libya's first free poll in nearly 50 years.

    The GNC agreed this week to hold elections this year after an outcry over its plan to extend its mandate beyond Feb. 7.

    Gadhafi ostensibly ruled Libya under a bizarre set of laws prescribed in his Green Book. In practice he and his family ran a totalitarian state where no political opposition was tolerated and rival tribes were paid off or played off against each other.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora