Libyan protesters and militiamen, calling for more autonomy for Libya’s east, stormed the headquarters of the election commission in the eastern city of Benghazi on July 1, setting voting slips on fire, a week before the country holds its first general election in nearly five decades.
About 300 men carried computers and ballot boxes from the building in Libya’s second city and began crushing them while chanting pro-federalism slogans. “They ran into our building, set fire to some of our offices and broke our computers and the furniture,” Haitham al-Taboly, who works for the election commission, told Reuters. The July 7 vote will be the country’s first nationwide election since the 1960s. Gadhafi, who ruled for 42 years, banned political parties and elections.
The violence and calls for boycotts threaten to tarnish the process of electing a 200-member assembly to form a government and oversee writing of a constitution. Piles of voting lists, ballot papers and other documents were set ablaze at the gates to the election commission. Smoke billowed out of some of the windows in the building. In southern Libya, a leader of Libya’s Tabu tribe threatened to boycott the election if the government does not withdraw its forces and tanks from a southern desert city where clashes have killed dozens. In Benghazi, Fadallah Haroun, commander of a former rebel militia, said he joined protesters in the attack on the election commission. This came after the ruling transitional council in Tripoli turned down demands to give the east an equal share of seats in the assembly. As the situation stands now, Tripoli and western Libya would have 102 seats, while the oil-rich east’s share would be 60.
The rest would go to the sparsely populated south. Eastern leaders charge this leaves them with no influence over drafting the constitution.
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