Libyans head to polls amid unrest in eastern cities

2012-07-07 07:38

Benghazi – Voters were to head to the polls across Libya today to elect a 200-seat National Congress, which will have legislative powers and appoint a new government, amid fears of violence and calls for boycott in eastern cities.

Around 2.7 million Libyans have registered to vote to elect the assembly, consisting of 120 directly elected members and 80 for contenders from party lists.

Some 2 500 candidates are vying for the directly elected seats, while there are 1 202 names on the party lists.

There are more than 6 600 polling stations across 13 cities, according to the election commission.

In the eastern city of Benghazi, some said they were planning to boycott the polls and hold anti-government protests today against the unfair distribution of seats.

The western region, including Tripoli, has been allocated 106 seats. The eastern region, including the second city Benghazi, has 60 seats.

The remaining will go to thinly populated southern Libya.

Gunshots were heard across Benghazi yesterday evening, following an attack on a helicopter carrying voting material, which killed one person on board, local radios reported.

Federalists in eastern Libya have been calling for autonomy, a demand which has been rejected by the interim ruling National Transitional Council and most political parties.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hailed the election as a “milestone in Libya’s long march towards democracy.”

The government has declared Saturday and Sunday a public holiday to encourage people to vote.

Polls were scheduled to close at 8.00pm. No date was set for the publishing of results.

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