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

IS Militants Release 49 Turkish Hostages

Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency reports that no ransom was paid and no conditions accepted for the hostages' release; few details of the release are known More

Photogallery IS Attacks Send Thousands of Syrian Kurds Fleeing to Turkey

Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 300 Kurdish fighters crossed into Syria from Turkey to defend a Kurdish area from attack by the Islamic militants More

Video Sierra Leone's Ebola Lockdown Continues

Thousands of health workers are going door to door in the West African country of 6 million, informing people of how to avoid Ebola, handing out soap More

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.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid