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Libya's Jibril urges grand coalition ahead of results

Day ahead of official results of the elections, former rebel Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril and currently leader of National Forces Alliances calls for some 150 political parties in Libya to come altogether in one coalition

Reuters , Monday 9 Jul 2012
Jibril, head of the National Forces Alliance, speaks during a news conference at his headquarters in Tripoli. (Photo: Reuters)
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Libya's wartime rebel prime minister Mahmoud Jibril called for the some 150 political parties in the North African nation to back the creation of a grand coalition government as election results were expected on Monday.

Joyful Libyans turned out in large numbers on Saturday for a largely peaceful national assembly election, their first free national poll after 42 years of Muammar Gaddafi which went ahead despite widespread fears of violence.

First official results were due on Monday and Jibril declined comment on speculation his own National Forces Alliance (NFA) of around 60 parties was leading Islamic groups including the political wing of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood.

"We extend an honest call for a national dialogue to come altogether in one coalition, under one banner ... This is an honest and sincere call for all political parties operating today in Libya," Jibril said.

"In yesterday's election there was no loser or winner ... Whoever wins, Libya is the real winner," he told a late-night news conference on Sunday.

Jibril is a fluent English-speaker who was the main point man of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) with Western backers including France, Britain and the United States.

He rejected descriptions of the NFA as secular and liberal, saying a commitment to tenets of Islamic law was among its core principles - a comment which could facilitate efforts to form ties with more overtly Islamist parties.

"The door is open to dialogue now for all Libyans," Ali Rhouma El-Sibai, head of the hardline Islamic Al-Assala Group told Reuters. "But no agreement is possible until we know what is on the table. We cannot compromise our principles."

No comment was available from the Justice and Construction Party, political wing of the local counterpart of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Watan, an group led by former rebel militia leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj, said it was studying the call.

If such a grand coalition were formed it would inevitably dominate the new 200-head assembly for which Libyans voted on Saturday and whose tasks include naming a prime minister and cabinet to serve before full parliamentary polls due in 2013.

Arab Spring countries such as Egypt and Tunisia have seen Islamic groups gain a grip on power in elections since their uprisings. Assessing who controls Libya's assembly will be complicated by the fact that 120 seats are reserved for independent candidates with varying allegiances.

Nearly 1.8 million of 2.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout of around 65 percent. Two deaths were reported as protesters in eastern Libya sought to disrupt the vote they see as a power grab by Tripoli and the west region.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nonetheless hailed the "peaceful, democratic spirit" of the vote and U.S. President Barack Obama said he looked forward to working with the new Libyan leadership.

However the storming of four voting centres by protesters in Benghazi, cradle of last year's uprising, underlined that eastern demands ranging from greater political representation for the region to all-out federalism will not go away.

Local gunmen demonstrated their grip on the eastern oil terminals from which the bulk of Libya's oil exports flow by blocking three main ports a day before the vote. The National Oil Corporation confirmed on Sunday that activities were back to normal after a 48-hour stoppage.

Many easterners are furious that their region, one of three in Libya, was only allotted 60 seats in the new assembly compared to 102 for the western region.

"There should be a serious dialogue (with the east). As there is a sincere wish on their part and on our part I think we can reach a compromise," said Jibril, who declined to specify what role he saw for himself in Libyan politics.

Analysts say one of Libya's priorities is to address the eastern grievances in the drafting of a new constitution, even if a move to all-out federalism is unlikely.

"The government recognises there is an overall unhappiness in the east and they are willing to address that issue. It will probably be termed more as decentralisation," said Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group.

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