| TRIPOLI, June 25
TRIPOLI, June 25 Libyans vote for a new
parliament on Wednesday, an election officials hope will ease
the chaos that has gripped the OPEC oil producer since the fall
of Muammar Gaddafi three years ago.
Marking another step in its transition after decades of
one-man rule, Libya is set to hold the vote as the North African
country is slipping deeper into turmoil after a renegade former
army general launched a campaign against Islamist militants in
The country badly needs a functioning government and
parliament to impose authority over heavily armed former rebels,
militias and tribes that helped oust Gaddafi, but who now defy
state authority, carving out fiefdoms.
Libya is also struggling with a budget crisis as a wave of
protests at oilfields and shipping ports by armed militias
making demands has reduced oil production, the country's
lifeline, to a trickle.
Tripoli's partners in the West hope the vote will give a
push to rebuilding a viable state as well as to bridging
divisions between the country's western regions, once favoured
by Gaddafi, and the neglected east, where many demand autonomy
and a greater share of the nation's oil wealth.
Western powers also worry that conflicts between militias
and tribes will push Libya deeper into turmoil as its nascent
army, still in training, is no match for fighters hardened
during the eight-month uprising against Gaddafi.
In another division of a country with several power centers,
the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, rooted in rural western coastal
cities, is vying with tribal areas in both the west and east for
control of the oil producer.
Many Libyans fear the vote will produce just another interim
assembly. A special body to draft a new national constitution
has still not finished its work, leaving questions over what
kind of political system Libya will eventually adopt.
To discourage political infighting between parties, which
paralyzed decision-making and led to a crisis over two rival
prime ministers in May, candidates must run as independents
rather than as party representatives.
Opening polling stations in Benghazi and other parts of the
east may be a challenge with forces of renegade general Khalifa
Haftar clashing with militant Islamists almost daily as he seeks
to clear them from the city.
Participation is widely expected to be lower than in 2012.
Around 1.5 million voters have registered, roughly half of the
2.8 million registered in July 2012 in Libya's first free
election in more than 40 years.
Electoral authorities tightened registration rules by
requiring voters to show a national identification number. Many
Libyans do not have such documents since security concerns and
political chaos have hampered basic state services.
The new parliament will again be made up of 200 seats, but
will be called the House of Representatives, replacing the
current General National Congress (GNC), which is linked by many
Libyans to the country's stalemate.
Thirty-two seats in the new parliament are allocated for
Around 1,600 candidates will be on the ballot, or about a
thousand less than in the previous parliamentary vote. Some
candidates put up street posters or platforms on social media,
but given the short time frame since the vote was announced,
there has been no real campaigning.
The vote will also be marked by a boycott of the Amazigh, or
Berber, a minority that demands a stronger say in the body
drafting the new constitution.
(Writing by Pat Markey; Editing by G Crosse)