July 9 (Bloomberg) — A Libyan political alliance led by U.S.-educated academic and former opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril is ahead in the country’s first free election since the removal of Muammar Qaddafi.
The National Forces Alliance, a grouping of about 60 parties, led the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party, according to results released by the election commission at a press conference in Tripoli today.
The alliance won two of the three multi-seat districts where the count has been completed, with the Brotherhood’s party in second place in all three, the results showed. A final tally for a 200-seat national assembly will be given on July 11. Jibril’s grouping trounced the Justice and Construction party by 26,798 votes to 2,423 in Janzour, and by 19,200 to 5,626 in Zlitan. A third party won in Misrata.
Libyans went to the polls on July 7 in their first free national election in more than 40 years amid political violence that may hamper efforts to rebuild after last year’s uprising caused Qaddafi’s overthrow and death. Islamist groups 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.
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. He joined the opposition last year, becoming de facto prime minister and helped direct North Atlantic Treaty Organization action which crushed Qaddafi’s armed forces. He describes his alliance as pro-business.
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 yesterday 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.”
Abdurrahman Sewehli, leader of the Union for Homeland party, which came in first in the coastal city of Misrata, today 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 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 3,700 candidates.
The pre-election period was marked by the eastern region’s push for a measure of autonomy and the transitional council’s failure to wrest power from regional militias that spearheaded the NATO-backed uprising. Fighting among the armed groups this year has undermined security and discouraged local businesses. Protests delayed elections in some towns and shut-off oil exports.