Thirty-three women have been elected to serve in Libya’s General National Congress in the first free elections since a NATO-backed revolt last year toppled the regime and the death of Moammar Gadhafi. Libya’s electoral commission unveiled results on Tuesday, ten days after the vote. The last time Libyans went to the polls was almost half a century ago under the late-monarch King Idriss, who Gadhafi toppled in a bloodless coup in 1969. The North African nation held parliamentary elections in 1964 and then again in 1965 but parties were banned. “This is a very good starting point: 32 women elected with the parties and one independent,” said Samira Massoud, acting president of the Libyan Women’s Union, a growing national organization with membership in the thousands. The tally gives women 16.5 percent representation in the 200-member transitional authority.
Abdel-Hakim Belhaj is a former rebel commander and a jihadist who once fought the Russians in Afghanistan. More recently, he has replaced his camouflaged fatigues with a business suit and founded an Islamist political party that is among the front-runners ahead of Saturday’s parliamentary election. It is the first significant step in Libya’s tumultuous transition toward democracy after more than 40 years under Muammar Qaddafi’s repressive rule. The campaign posters plastering the capital Tripoli are in sharp contrast to the decades in which Qaddafi banned political parties and considered democracy a form of tyranny. He governed with his political manifesto the “Green Book,” which laid out his vision for rule by the people but ultimately bestowed power in his hands alone. But Saturday’s election, in which 2.8 million Libyans are eligible to vote, follows a ruinous civil war that laid bare regional, tribal and ethnic conflicts and left the country divided nine months after Qaddafi was captured and killed by rebel forces in his home city of Sirte.
A panel of fundamentalist Islamic clerics on Wednesday endorsed the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood for president of Egypt, an attempt to prevent a split of the conservative Muslim voters. In another twist, Egypt’s election commission late Wednesday reinstated a candidate, a former regime official it disqualified just a day earlier, scrambling the projected voting even more. The ultraconservative endorsement boosted the Brotherhood candidate, Mohammed Morsi, who faces competition in next month’s election from a more moderate Islamist, Abdel-Moneim Abolfotoh, who broke ranks with the group. Support for Morsi came from the Jurisprudence Commission for Rights and Reform, a panel of clerics mostly from the ultraconservative Salafis and new Islamist parties, but also including a Brotherhood member. The decision was announced at a news conference in Cairo.
The Muslim Brotherhood’s candidate for the Egyptian presidency has registered for the election set for late May. Khairat al-Shater, who announced he was running for the presidency less than a week ago, presented his papers to the electoral commission on Thursday. The party had previously said it would not field a candidate in the vote. Meanwhile, doubts were cast over the eligibility of Salafist contender Hazem Abu Ismail, after electoral officials said his mother was a US citizen. The ruling is likely to bar Mr Abu Ismail from the race, since a law made last year stipulates that a candidate, or his parents, may not have citizenship of any country other than Egypt.
Yemen’s Salafis on Wednesday formed their first political party, mirroring a move made by their Egyptian counterparts with great success in recent elections there, reported Reuters. Egypt’s Salafi al-Nour party recently took the second highest number of seats in the nation’s first democratically-elected parliament in years. Yemen’s new Islamist party, Rashad Union — Rashad a name based on the Arabic for “good judgement” – on Wednesday issued a statement outlining their political priorities, among them the implementation of Islamic law throughout the country.