Libyan Islamists Say Results Unclear, Opponents Use Trickery
Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood refused to concede defeat at the hands of a U.S.-educated academic and accused opponents of campaign trickery.
Partial results from Libya’s elections commission showing that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party had been beaten into second place did not prove the group’s defeat, said Alamin Belhaj, the party’s campaign manager, in an interview.
“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, yesterday. Belhaj said the party would do better than early results suggested and would not join a coalition led by the National Forces Alliance of Mahmoud Jibril, a former opposition leader who holds a University of Pittsburgh PhD. Final results, which were due today, may not be announced until tomorrow or July 13, officials said today.
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 Muammar Qaddafi. Libyan Islamist groups had sought to emulate the success of 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 Brotherhood’s party was pushed into second place in all three multi-seat regions where results were declared on July 9, 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.
Another batch of results released by the elections commission last night showed further overwhelming wins for Jibril’s grouping. The Alliance came first in three of the four areas declared, including Tubruq, Sebha and Almaya, where it garnered about 90 percent of the votes cast. The Brotherhood took the southern seat of Brak, its first win.
Belhaj, a member of Libya’s transitional council, accused the Alliance of unfair campaign tactics, like the use of Jibril’s face on campaign posters even though he’s not standing for the national assembly. “Mr. Jibril is not a candidate, while his picture is all over the country, it’s a way of tricking people,” he said. Belhaj said he was flying to Egypt yesterday to congratulate President Mursi on his victory.
Preliminary returns from Benghazi, the country’s second- biggest city, also 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.
Qaddafi, who ruled the North African nation for 42 years, was killed in October after eight months of fighting between loyalists and rebels.
“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 by e- mail. “Voting in Libya has gone along tribal and familial lines.
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 also taught strategic planning at the University of Pittsburgh after his doctorate in 1985, 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 yesterday. ‘‘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.’’
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.’’
Abdurrahman Sewehli, leader of the Union for Homeland party, which came in first in the coastal city of Misrata, ruled out working with Jibril on July 9, 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.’’
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