Libyans call for national unity ahead of elections
By Mawassi Lahcen for Magharebia in Casablanca – 04/07/12
As the July 7th constituent assembly elections draw near, thousands of Libyans have taken to the streets to support the vote.
An opposition protest urging people to boycott the poll apparently crossed the line on Saturday (June 30th) when about 300 people stormed the High National Electoral Commission offices in Benghazi and burned documents, election materials, computers and office supplies.
"The Federalists" group that called for the demonstration is demanding cancellation of the National Transitional Council (NTC) electoral law based on what it calls "unfair" distribution of congressional seats among constituencies. They say that it has given the lion's share to Tripoli at the expense of the eastern region.
The opposition group is calling for a return to the 3-region federal system of the Libyan monarchy.
In a move to promote national unity, the Az-Zawiya local council decided to give up 5 seats from the western city's share to the eastern region. On Tuesday, thousands of residents in Az-Zawiya demonstrated in support of this decision, confirming their insistence on holding the election at its pre-scheduled date.
Meanwhile, in Benghazi, hundreds of young people have rallied since last weekend at Tahrir Square to support the election.
Though spread across the country, the protests shared a common theme that Libyans would not allow the country to take steps backward after it had come so far.
"The residents of Benghazi who went out in thousands today won't allow anyone to disfigure the struggle history of this city that was the cradle of February revolution in its first days and guided it to the shore of safety in the darkest hours and circumstances," Benghazi local council head Shahat al-Awami said in a statement.
Any person or a group of person has the right to express their opinions and ideas, provided that they do so in a civilised, peaceful way without any violence or sabotage, he added.
In a Monday night rally in Tobruk's al-Shuhadaa Square, civil society organisations said the July 7th elections would help "build a new Libya".
Libyan political activist Youssef al-Zayedi called the arguments for seat redistribution "weak", saying that Libyans understand that demographic have changed since the time of the Libyan monarchy.
He also downplayed the likelihood that the recent events in Benghazi would be of consequence to the election.
"It's impossible that they will have any effect," he told Magharebia. "The proof is that Az-Zawiya's people went out and gave up 5 seats to support national unity and silence those who don't want the election.
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