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Libyans vote for constitution-drafting panel - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A man shows his ink-stained finger after casting his ballot during a vote to elect a constitution-drafting panel in Benghazi on February 20, 2014. (REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

A man shows his ink-stained finger after casting his ballot during a vote to elect a constitution-drafting panel in Benghazi on February 20, 2014. (REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori)

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Libyans headed to the polls on Thursday to elect a body to draft the country’s first post-Gaddafi constitution as Tripoli announced it had reached a key agreement with a powerful militia that had earlier this week sought to disband the government.

Approximately 700 candidates are competing for a seat on the 60-member constitution-drafting panel, which will have 120 days to draft Libya’s new constitution. Attempts to draft the new constitution have repeatedly been delayed by political infighting within the General National Congress (GNC).

Prior to the start of voting, explosions were reported at five polling stations in the east of the country, as a deadly conflict between rival armed factions continues to threaten the transition process.

Nobody was wounded in the bomb attacks in the town of Derna, with voting reportedly taking place at the remaining thirteen polling stations. The attacks are the latest incident in the ongoing political and security unrest that has beset the country, with two powerful militias threatening to dissolve the GNC earlier this week.

Leaders of the two militias accuse the GNC of paralyzing the country through its endless infighting. The GNC’s mandate was scheduled to end last month, but Libya’s parliament controversially extended it until after a new constitution can be drafted.

The Libyan government announced on Wednesday it had reached an agreement with the powerful Al-Qaaqaa Brigade which—along with the Al-Sawaiq militia—had demanded that the GNC disband. The two powerful brigades had called for parliament and government to step down, saying they would hand over power to the Supreme Court and form committees to oversee new elections.

But the Zeidan government and the Al-Qaaqaa Brigade reached an agreement to resolve the latest political crisis to have plagued Libya. In a press conference on Wednesday, Zeidan announced: “Everyone has reached an understanding and wisdom has prevailed, and I am certain that the GNC will act with responsibility and will meet the aspirations of the Libyan people.”

The Al-Qaaqaa Brigade was formed by a group of Libyans from the west of the country during the 2011 uprising against the Gaddafi regime. They were initially based out of Zintan but were placed officially under the Defense Ministry following the revolution, being tasked with securing law and order and protecting senior government officials and ministers.

Libya’s political scene is increasingly fractured by regional, ideological and ethnic divides. The Al-Qaaqaa and Al-Sawaiq militias support the non-Islamist National Forces Alliance at the GNC, while rival militias are allied with parliament’s Muslim Brotherhood and Islamist blocs.

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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