Call for election boycott in Libya's turbulent east

A self-proclaimed autonomous council for Libya's oil-producing eastern province has called on people in the region to boycott an election scheduled for next month, saying it will not give adequate representation to the east.

The election, for a special national assembly that will draw up a new constitution, is a crucial milestone in shaping the country's new institutions after a revolt last year forced out leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The Council of Cyrenaica, which wants autonomy for the eastern region around the city of Benghazi, said it wanted guarantees of fair representation for Libya's provinces before the election takes place.

"The transitional authorities are currently working on railroading the Libyan people and the whole country into a constitutional process in which the new state will not be built correctly," the council said in a statement.

"The Council of Cyrenaica is calling on Libyans in general, and the residents of Cyrenaica in particular, to reject the political process in its current deformed shape... and to boycott the elections of the national assembly if the transitional authorities insist on their current stance."

The Cyrenaica council, headed by a descendant of Libya's former king and made up of civic leaders, does not have any legal status and it is not clear how much support it has, even in its heartland around Benghazi, Libya's second city.

However, the call for a boycott will add to the hurdles facing the election.

Libya's interim leadership, the National Transitional Council, has to date been unable to agree on a definitive set of rules for the vote, and lack of security on the ground could derail the process.

Libyans began to register to vote in the election this week, a novelty for them because Gaddafi outlawed elections for 40 years. He said they were undemocratic and instead created an idiosyncratic system of direct self-government that, in practice, gave him unfettered power.

One voter registration centre in Tripoli had to be closed after armed men from one of the country's many militias arrived in pick-up trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns. They were protesting over the rules of the vote.

(Source: Reuters)

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