Libya holds municipal elections in first vote for five years

Libya on Saturday held rare municipal elections in nine communities where turnout in the country’s first voting for five years reached only about 38 percent.

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.

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

“I came here consciously to choose the members of the municipality board in the city of Zuwara. We wish every success to this board and for it to achieve all the aspirations of this city’s residents in all areas,” said a voter, Abdulsalam Ramadan Abdulsalam.

Libya created 120 municipal councils in 2013 in a bid to end 42 years of centralisation 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.

“The total percentage (of voters) today is about 40 percent. This is considered the beginning, or the first round of elections today. God willing, next week there will be seven more municipalities and then every following Saturday,” said Salem Bentahia, Head of Election Committee.

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

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

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