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Libyans await landmark polls amid frequent bursts of violence

07-07-2012 07:05 BJT

TRIPOLI, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Violent acts and tribal conflicts continue to rattle Libya as the North African country braces for a historic legislative vote marking a milestone on its way to democracy after Muammar Gaddafi's decades-long rule.

On Friday, the eve of the landmark polls, a police helicopter carrying election materials was downed by unidentified militants in Libya's second largest city of Benghazi, killing one worker of Libya's High National Electoral Committee (HNEC) on board, sources told Xinhua.

A HNEC official, quoted by Libya's independent news agency Solidarity Press, confirmed the death of his worker. The pilot survived the machine gun fire, and the election materials on board were also undamaged.

The incident came on the eve of Libya's national congress elections, which are hailed as a milestone on the path toward democracy after toppling Libyan former leader Muammar Gaddafi in a months-long civil war.

Although the identities of the gunmen are yet to be confirmed, rumors said the attack was carried out by militants supporting autonomy in eastern Libya.

The upcoming polls have been being boycotted by Libya's self- proclaimed autonomous eastern region, which said the future congress will not give fair representation to the east and aims at marginalizing the region.

After the 200-member congress is elected, the ruling National Transitional Council is due to be dissolved.

The congress is also expected to be tasked with overseeing a group of experts drafting a new constitution, the very first since Gaddafi's overthrew.

Friday's attack was the latest in a string of violent acts that damped Libyans' enthusiasm to cast their ballots for the national congress.

On Thursday, two days before the polls, a depot in Libya's eastern city of Ajdabiya was set on fire, which left all election materials in storage destroyed.

Later on Thursday, the self-proclaimed Cyrenaica autonomous council in eastern Libya closed two oil output ports near Benghazi to protest the upcoming national congress elections.

Last week, protesters stormed an office building of Libya's electoral commission located in Benghazi, demanding "fair" distribution of parliamentary seats in the upcoming election.

Analysts have said that the frequent bursts of violence is a sign that the wrestling over ballots will possibly lead to armed conflicts, even denial of election results and the central government.

Libya will reserve two fifths of the seats in the new parliament for political parties and groups that were banned under deposed and slain leader Gaddafi, according to the final draft of the country's election law published early February. The rest will be allocated to independent candidates.

A total of 374 political entities will race for 80 of the 200 seats in the national congress, while 2,639 individual candidates will contest the rest. Voters will start to cast their ballots at 8:00 a.m. local time (GMT 0600) in polling stations across the North African country. The initial result of the polls is scheduled to be published on July 11.

Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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