March 30, 2019 / 7:28 PM / 19 days ago

Libya holds municipal elections in first vote for five years

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya held rare municipal elections in nine communities on Saturday, although turnout in the country’s first voting for five years reached only about 38 percent.

A man casts his vote during the municipal election at a polling station in Zwara, Libya March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Ismail Zitouny

The North African state, which has been mired in conflict and chaos since the 2011 toppling of Muammar Gaddafi, has not held any elections since 2014, when a heavily contested national vote ended up splitting the country into rival administrations and parliaments.

Only nine out of 69 municipal councils in southern and western Libya voted on Saturday, officials said. No violence or sabotage was reported.

Libya created 120 municipal councils in 2013 in a bid to end 42 years of centralization and one man rule under Gaddafi. Some councils held elections in 2014.

The municipal board of each council includes seven members, which then elects a mayor.

“We’ll go on each Saturday until 33 councils hold their elections then we resume after the holy month of Ramadan so all councils are elected,” Salem Bentahia, head of the elections commission, told Reuters.

The Muslim fasting month of Ramadan ends in early June.

In Zuwara, a town west of Tripoli near the Tunisian border, there was a modest turnout in the morning.

“We wish every success to this board and for it to achieve all the aspirations of this city’s residents in all areas,” Abdulsalam Ramdan Abdulsalam said as he cast his vote.

The United Nations is holding a national conference in April in a bid to end the political conflict between the internationally recognized government in Tripoli in the west of Libya and a parallel administration version in the east.

The U.N. efforts aim to prepare the country for long-delayed national elections.

Reporting by Ahmed Elumami; Editing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Edmund Blair

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