Libya starts voter registration for general elections

TRIPOLI Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:02pm EDT

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TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya will start registering voters for general elections, officials said on Tuesday, in the first concrete step indicating a vote will take place later this year.

In February, the Libyan parliament, the General National Congress (GNC), agreed to hold early elections, in an apparent effort to assuage Libyans frustrated at political chaos nearly three years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.

Deputies initially agreed to extend their term after their mandate ran out on February 7, to allow a special committee time to draft a new constitution. But that move provoked protests from Libyans angry at the slow pace of political change.

Voter registration will start from Wednesday, Emad al-Shadi al-Saih, head of the elections commission, told reporters. He gave no date for the vote but analysts say it might take place in summer or early autumn.

Saih called on Libyans to avoid "being negative" and participate in the elections in order to rebuild the country.

The GNC is deadlocked between Islamists and nationalists, compounding a sense of chaos as Libya's fledgling army tries to assert itself against unruly ex-rebels, tribal groups and Islamist militants.

Many people in the OPEC nation blame congress infighting for a lack of progress in the transition towards democracy since the overthrow of Gaddafi in 2011.

In addition, Libya needs to pick a new prime minister after Abdullah al-Thinni resigned a week ago after just one month in office, blaming an attack by gunmen on his family.

On Tuesday, deputies postponed a session to choose a premier from seven candidates because more time was needed for debate, Benghazi Congressman Omar Khaled El-Obaidi told Reuters.

"The Congress decided to cancel today's session because there is no consensus so far," he said.

(Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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