Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Benghazi election office looted

Demonstrators demanding greater sovereignty for eastern Libya have looted the offices of the electoral authority in Benghazi. Over 300 people chanting slogans of independence took ballot boxes out of the building and burned documents in the street.

Libya, which is still recovering from the civil war that brought down Colonel Mu'ammar Qadhafi, is to elect a new parliament on Saturday 7July. Pro-autonomy leaders in eastern Libya, however, have called on the nation to boycott the vote. They are demanding that eastern Libya be given a larger share of seats in the new 200-member legislature, which is tasked with drawing up a constitution.

The country's electoral law allocates 60 seats to eastern Libya, 102 seats to western Libya and 38 to the remainder of the country. Speaking to AFP news agency, Head of Benghazi's High National Election Commission Jamal Bukrin said: "A group of people entered the commission's premises, ransacked the offices and destroyed what they found inside the building."

The call to shun Saturday's vote was made by a group that has proclaimed itself the authority of a semi-autonomous territory in Cyrenaica, or eastern Libya. Speaking about the outbreak of violence, one of the movement's leaders Abdeljawad al-Badin said it was the protesters' "reaction to the authorities disregard for their demands".

It is estimated that Cyrenaica contains two-thirds of Libya's oil reserves. It was one of three regions that formed part of a federal system before 1963, along with Tripolitania around the capital Tripoli in the north-west  and Fezzan in the south-west.
Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

For more news and expert analysis about Libya, please see Libya Focus and Libya Politics & Security.

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