Libyans register to vote in landmark elections


Libyans began registering to vote in June elections for a national assembly, as the country prepared for its first free polls following the removal of Muammar Gaddafi.

One registration centre at a Tripoli school was closed after armed former rebel fighters turned up in pickup trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns.

About 1,500 registration centres have been set up across the country for the landmark polls, after which Libya will have a new constitution, Reuters reports.

People queued up outside, holding their national identity papers and centres for candidate registration also were opened.

However, in a stark reminder of the security concerns that persist in Libya six months after the conflict that toppled Gaddafi ended, the school centre in Tripoli was closed when the fighters mounted a protest.

The men called for militiamen who fought Gaddafi to be represented in the new assembly and asked for the one-week deadline given to political parties to register to be extended, a Reuters reporter at the scene said.

Nouri Al-Abbar, head of Libya’s election commission, said the first day of registration showed Libya had begun to move towards a democratic path.
“We can see that a lot of people have come from the first hour and this can be seen as a positive beginning and everyone is very happy,” he said.

In the new assembly, 80 of the 200 seats will go to political parties, with the rest reserved for independent candidates.

Dozens of new parties have sprung up offering a mix of democratic, Islamist, free-market and nationalist agendas and providing an alternative to established political movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

But there is still widespread insecurity in the country, with the interim government appointed in November struggling to impose its authority on several armed groups.