Libya’s electoral commission has begun unveiling the preliminary results of the country’s historic vote after decades of dictatorship as a liberal coalition called for national unity talks.
The National Forces Alliance, widely seen as a key contender in Saturday’s election for a national assembly, won a crushing victory in two western constituencies but was elbowed out by a local party and Islamists in Misrata.
Mahmud Jibril of the National Forces Alliances (NFA) called on Monday for all parties to come together.
“We extend an honest call for a national dialogue to come all together in one coalition, under one banner… to reach a compromise, a consensus on which the constitution can be drafted and the new government can be composed,” said the NFA leader.
“There was no loser and winner at all. Whoever is going to win, Libya is the real winner of those elections,” he added.
Jibril, 60, is not on the ballot under rules blocking members of the anti-Gaddafi transitional government from running.
Instead, he acts as a mix of elder statesman and spokesman for a political coalition of more than 50 parties, some as small as just a handful of people.
His remarks came hours after the leader of the rival Justice and Construction Party admitted the NFA had an early lead in the vote count for the capital and Libya’s second-largest city of Benghazi.
“The National Forces Alliance achieved good results in some large cities except Misrata. They have a net lead in Tripoli and in Benghazi,” said Mohammed Sawan, a Justice and Construction leader.
Votes are still being tallied with preliminary results rolled out district by district in a complex counting system that needs to measure the performance of individual candidates as well as those of political entities.
The commission has not given a date for the final results.
Faisal Krekshi, NFA secretary general, said: “Early reports show that the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies.”
Preliminary figures from the country’s electoral commission showed that 1.7 million of the nearly 2.9 million eligible voters, or about 63 per cent, cast their ballots on Saturday.
Full results could not be unknown until the end of the week as the election commission has decided to bring ballot papers to Tripoli for a centralised count in the first elections since the fall of Gaddafi last year.
The United Nation’s top official in Libya applauded on Sunday how the country conducted its first free and fair election in more than four decades, saying it went better than anyone could “reasonably have expected”.
The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Ian Martin, spoke in Tripoli and said he hoped that the lengthy procedure of counting the ballots would not be a source of suspicion.
If the results are confirmed, Libya, unlike neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt whose strongmen were also ousted in last year’s Arab Spring, will buck the trend of electoral success for Islamists.
“But it is a tight race for us in the south,” added Sawan, a former political prisoner and member of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, which launched the party.
In a country with no history of political parties and no national surveys, forecasting results is virtually impossible, but early media reports seemed to back the party leaders’ claims.
Al-Assima TV said the coalition was far ahead in the capital, scooping 80 per cent in the district of Tripoli Centre and 90 per cent in the impoverished district of Abu Slim.
Its lead, the private channel said, was also strong in the troubled east, with preliminary figures giving it 70 per cent in Benghazi and 80 per cent in Al-Bayda, hometown of interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
These figures were unofficial, however, and the commission warned it was best not to release numbers that could create false expectations or “confuse voters” if the results proved different.
“The first winner is the Libyan people,” said stressed election commission chief Nuri Abbar.
Apart from acts of sabotage in the restive east, and one death in Ajdabiya as gunmen opened fire near a polling station, the vote was held in a festive atmosphere in major cities.