Libya prepares for historic elections

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Libya prepares for historic elections

Libya prepares for historic elections
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Less than a year after an uprising ended four decades of autocratic rule by Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is holding its first nationwide exercise in democracy in 60 years.

The election will determine the make-up of a national assembly that will in turn appoint a prime minister and cabinet.

Political parties were banned for decades. Now there are nearly 150 of them.

There are almost 4,000 candidates for the 2.7 million registered voters to consider.

There is uncertainty, confusion and also fear that militias may spoil the voting on Saturday, but also excitement.

Although women have a fragile place in Libyan society, now parties are required to alternate the genders on their election lists.

“It is a national celebration,” one woman organiser said. “When we got the kits I can’t tell you how happy I was. Of course, we are totally ready, and we hope that God is with us.”

The election is designed to produce a government with a stronger mandate to rule than the current ex-rebel National Transitional Council.

A key task for the new General National Congress will be to prepare another direct election of members of a committee to draft a new constitution.

Easterners are unhappy that their region will count for just 20 in that committee.

Although this is based on demographics, last week an election office in the eastern city of Benghazi was stormed by protesters demanding greater powers for their region.

They threatened to sabotage the polls.

With a real risk of unrest on voting day, some 40,000 national security service members are on alert, and 13,000 in the army.

Turnout is expected to be high.

Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood Justice and Construction is tipped to do well, as is al-Watan, the party of former CIA detainee and Islamist insurgent Abdel Hakim Belhadj.