* Turnout expected to be lower than 2012 polls
* Fighting in Benghazi overshadows voting
* Former PM Zeidan returns from Europe for vote
(Adds final turnout figure)
By Ulf Laessing and Ayman al-Warfalli
TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI, Libya, June 25 Some 630,000
Libyans voted on Wednesday - fewer than half of those eligible -
in a parliamentary election overshadowed by violence, election
At least five people were killed in heavy clashes between
Islamists and government forces in the eastern city of Benghazi,
medical sources said, as turmoil continued to grow in the wake
of the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi three years ago.
Turnout was much lower than in July 2012, the first free
national vote in more than 40 years. Some 1.5 million were
registered to vote, compared with 2.8 million in 2012, after
rules were tightened.
Live cameras from Libyan news channels in the main cities
showed mostly empty polling stations. Polling stations closed at
The election was called last month as a way to strengthen
central state authority after renegade army general Khalifa
Haftar opened a campaign against Islamists in the east.
Some polling stations stayed shut for security reasons in
the eastern Islamist hotspot of Derna, Kufra in the southeast
where tribes regularly clash, and the main southern city of
Sabha, officials said.
Without a functioning government and parliament, Libya is
struggling to impose authority over heavily-armed former rebels,
militias and tribes which helped oust Gaddafi but who now defy
the state and carve out their own fiefdoms.
The nascent national army, still in training, is no match
for fighters hardened during the eight-month uprising against
Libya also has a budget crisis. Protests at oilfields and
shipping ports by armed militias have reduced oil production,
the country's lifeline, to a trickle.
Tripoli's partners in the West had hoped the vote would help
it to begin rebuilding a viable state.
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
paralysed decision-making and led to wrangling between two rival
prime ministers in May, candidates must run as independents
rather than as party representatives.
"I am participating again to vote for the House of
Representatives so we can rebuild Libya," said Munira Ashour, a
"I didn't vote for any congressional members who had
nominated themselves again because they have had their chances
without making any progress."
In Tripoli, former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan made a surprise
appearance to cast his vote after returning from Europe, where
he fled when parliament ousted him in March.
"We hope the elections will achieve their goals and that the
House of Representatives will make a new start, better than the
past," he told Reuters.
In Benghazi, polling stations opened despite clashes in one
district when Islamist militants opened fire with heavy guns on
a local security headquarters, security officials said. At least
five people were killed and 30 wounded.
Divisions need to be bridged between Libya's west, once
favoured by Gaddafi, and the neglected east where many demand
autonomy and a greater share of the nation's oil wealth.
Electoral authorities tightened registration rules by
requiring voters to show a national identification number, which
many Libyans lack because of the collapse of state services.
The new parliament will again be made up of 200 seats, but
will be called the House of Representatives. Thirty-two seats
are allocated to women.
Around 1,600 candidates were on the ballot, about 1,000
fewer than in the previous parliamentary vote. Some candidates
put up street posters or platforms on social media, but the
announcement of the election a month ago left little time before
voting began, and there has been no real campaigning.
(Additional reporting by Feras Bosalum and Ahmed Elumami;
Writing by Ulf Laessing annd Patrick Markey; Editing by Andrew
Roche and Robin Pomeroy)