Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Protesters in Libya Attack Election Offices ; Easterners Argue Region Didn't Get Enough Seats in Constituent Assembly

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Protesters in Libya Attack Election Offices ; Easterners Argue Region Didn't Get Enough Seats in Constituent Assembly

Article excerpt

Armed protesters have stormed the offices of the Libyan election commission in two eastern cities before a planned election for a constituent assembly, saying the region has too few seats.

Hundreds of armed protesters have attacked the offices of the Libyan election commission in two cities, Benghazi and Tobruk, in anger over the way seats in the planned election this week for a constituent assembly were distributed among the country's regions.

The protesters carried computers, ballot boxes and ballots out of the offices Sunday, and shattered and burned them in the streets outside, according to witnesses, news agencies and photographs that circulated on the Internet. Some of the attackers carried signs calling the leader of the Libyan interim government a "traitor" to the eastern region of the country, Cyrenaica, which the protesters said had gotten too few seats in the assembly. Others demanded the writing of a constitution before elections.

Libyans hoped that the election of the assembly this Saturday would establish a government with more credibility than the weak Transitional National Council, one that could control the freewheeling local militias that have dominated the country since the overthrow of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi last year.

But it was far from certain that the transitional government could provide enough security to hold a credible vote, or persuade the rival regions and tribes to set aside their grievances and respect the result.

Whether the attacks Sunday would derail the vote was unclear.

There have been reports in recent weeks of low-level violence against diplomatic missions from Britain, Tunisia and the United States. In Benghazi, the main eastern city, a senior prosecutor was murdered, apparently in revenge for having detained a prominent rebel commander, Gen. Abdel Fattah Younes, who was assassinated while in custody during the rebellion against the Qaddafi regime.

Fighting among rival tribes around Kufra in the south killed more than a dozen people last month. …

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