Hundreds of armed protesters on Sunday attacked the offices of Libya’s election commission in two cities, Benghazi and Tobruk, in anger over the way seats in next week’s planned election for a constituent assembly were distributed among the country’s regions. The protesters carried computers, ballot boxes and ballots out of the offices, and shattered and burned them in the streets outside, according to witnesses, news agencies and photographs that circulated on the Internet. Some of the attackers carried signs calling the leader of Libya’s interim government a “traitor” to the eastern region of the country, known as Cyrenaica, which the protesters said got too few seats in the assembly. Others demanded the writing of a constitution before elections.
Libyans hoped that the election of the assembly on July 7 would establish a government with more credibility than the weak Transitional National Council, one that could control the freewheeling local militias that have dominated the country since the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last year. But it was far from certain that the transitional government could provide enough security to hold a credible vote, or persuade the rival regions and tribes to set aside their grievances and respect the result. Whether the attacks on Sunday would derail the vote was unclear.