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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid