Liberals Claim Early Lead in Libya Vote Count

Liberals Claim Early Lead in Libya Vote Count

Liberals claimed an early lead today in vote counting across the country after Libya held its first free elections following Muammar Gaddafi's ouster, winning plaudits from the international community.

If the trend is confirmed, Libya, unlike neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt whose strongmen were also toppled in last year's Arab Spring, will buck the trend of electoral success for Islamist movements.

"Early reports show that the coalition is leading the polls in the majority of constituencies," the secretary general of the National Forces Alliance (NFA), Faisal Krekshi, told AFP.

The alliance which groups more than 40 small parties is headed by Mahmud Jibril who played a prominent role as rebel prime minister during last year's popular revolt that toppled dictator Gaddafi and ended his four-decade rule.

The leader of one of Libya's main Islamist parties, also basing his assessment on their vote count observers, acknowledged the rival coalition had the edge in the country's two largest cities.

"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, who heads the Justice and Construction party.

"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.

The bulk of Libya's population and registered voters are concentrated in the capital, which lies in the west of the oil-rich desert country, and in the eastern city of Benghazi.

The spokesman for Jibril's coalition in Benghazi said initial information indicated that it had garnered the most votes there.

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