A Libyan political alliance led by a U.S.-educated academic and former opposition leader trounced Islamist parties in early results from the country’s first free election since Muammar Qaddafi’s removal.
The National Forces Alliance, a collection of about 60 political groups led by Mahmoud Jibril, beat the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party, according to results released by the election commission in Tripoli yesterday. In one multi-seat constituency near the capital, the Alliance won 11 times as many votes as its Islamist rival.
Libyans went to the polls on July 7 in their first free national election in more than 40 years, amid political violence that’s hampered efforts to rebuild after last year’s uprising to overthrow Qaddafi. Libyan Islamist groups had sought to emulate the success of their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, a trend which culminated in the election of the Muslim Brotherhood- backed Mohamed Mursi as Egypt’s president last month.
“The Muslim Brotherhood isn’t doing as well in Libya, as they don’t have the same grass-roots organization as in Egypt or Tunisia to gain and mobilize support,” Emad Mostaque, a London- based emerging-markets strategist at Religare Noah, said today by e-mail. “Voting in Libya has gone along tribal and familial lines.
Qaddafi, who ruled the North African nation for 42 years, was killed in October after eight months of fighting between loyalists and rebels.
The Brotherhood’s party took second place in all three multi-seat regions where results were declared yesterday, with the Alliance winning two. Jibril’s grouping beat the Justice and Construction party by 26,798 votes to 2,423 in Janzour, a suburb of Tripoli, and by 19,200 to 5,626 in Zlitan, a coastal town 100 miles east of the capital. A third party won in Misrata. A final tally for the 200-seat national assembly will be given tomorrow.
‘‘In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has a long history,” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis. “In Libya, there are no modern political parties to speak of.”
Preliminary returns from Benghazi, the country’s second- biggest city, showed Jibril’s Alliance taking more than 50 percent of the vote, according to the Libya Herald online newspaper, which cited unnamed elections officials. Libya’s political parties are competing for 80 seats, while individual candidates vie for the other 120.
The Muslim Brotherhood refused to concede defeat today. Alamin Belhaj, campaign manager for the Justice and Construction Party, predicted that candidates standing as individuals would fare better than on the party lists.
“Nobody can predict the result of the election,” he said in an interview at the party campaign headquarters, a villa in Tripoli’s Bin Ashour district. “In the individuals, I think the results will be more.” The party would not join a Jibril-led coalition, he said.
Belhaj, a member of Libya’s transitional council, accused Jibril’s Alliance of employing unfair tactics and said 40 years of Qaddafi propaganda had hurt the Brotherhood. He leaves for Cairo today to congratulate President Mursi on his victory, he said.
The results are “great news for the country and the Libyans,” said Osama Gandour, a student at Tripoli University. Jibril “is the right man to lead us.”
Jibril, who earned a PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 1985 and subsequently taught strategic planning at the institution, became head of national planning under Qaddafi in 2007 and worked with his son Saif al-Islam on a new constitution. An observant Muslim, he joined the opposition last year, becoming de facto prime minister and helped direct North Atlantic Treaty Organization action that crushed Qaddafi’s armed forces. He describes his alliance as pro-business.
Jibril campaigned as a conservative pledging a secular approach to government, which “probably suits a substantial portion of the population,” Crispin Hawes, director of the Mideast and North Africa program at the Eurasia Group said in an interview today. “Libyan government departments and state companies are full of well-educated and technically-adept staff that are also genuinely conservative and observant Muslims. Jibril fits that very well.”
The grouping stands at the political center, Jibril said on July 8, though the Alliance is “composed of different political formations.”
The newly elected assembly will pick a Cabinet to replace the ruling Transitional National Council, which has struggled to restore order and revive the economy.
Ahead of the election results, Jibril said he favored the creation of a coalition.
“We extend an invitation, continued as before, to other political forces to come together in one coalition under one banner,” Jibril, 60, said at a press conference in Tripoli. “This is a sincere call for all political parties to come together.”
‘Close to Qaddafi’
Abdurrahman Sewehli, leader of the Union for Homeland party, which came in first in the coastal city of Misrata, yesterday ruled out working with Jibril, saying he had been too close to the previous government.
“Misrata is the only place in Libya where Jibril is getting nothing,” he said in a telephone interview. “Symbolism is very important. Mr. Jibril is still representing the old regime. He was very close to Qaddafi.”
Voter turnout among the 2.8 million registered voters was 60 percent, Al Jazeera television reported on July 8, citing Nouri Al-Abbar, the head of the country’s election commission. They were choosing between about 142 parties and about 3,700 candidates.
To contact the reporters on this story: Brigitte Scheffer in Tripoli at firstname.lastname@example.org; Christopher Stephen in Tripoli at email@example.com
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