TRIPOLI: Vote counting was under way yesterday after a Libyan general election marred by the murder of a leading women’s rights activist and poor turnout yet applauded by US President Barack Obama as a democratic milestone.
The first results were expected late yesterday from an election the authorities hope will pave a way out of the turmoil that has gripped the country since the 2011 ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
Masked men broke into the home of liberal activist Salwa Bugaighis in Benghazi, an Islamist bastion, just hours after polls closed on Wednesday evening in an attack that drew international condemnation.
“Mrs Bugaighis was stabbed in several parts of her body but the cause of death was a bullet wound to the head,” said a spokesman for the Benghazi Medical Centre.
US Ambassador Deborah Jones called the killing “heartbreaking” on Twitter, denouncing “a cowardly, despicable, shameful act against a courageous woman and true Libyan patriot.”
British Ambassador Michael Aron also condemned the killing of Bugaighis, a lawyer and a feminist who served on the National Transitional Council, the political wing of the rebellion.
Seven soldiers who had been deployed to provide polling day security in Benghazi were also killed, and 53 wounded, in what security officials said was an attack on their convoy by Islamist militia.
There was polling day violence in western Libya too, with gunmen seizing ballot boxes from five polling stations in Al Jemil, forcing voting in the town to be abandoned.
There was no election in the eastern city of Derna — a jihadist stronghold — and in swathes of the southern Kufra region.
Polling for the 16 of the 200 seats in parliament that those areas provide will be reorganised on a later date, the electoral commission said.
Just 42 percent of the 1.5 million registered voters turned out on Wednesday, according to the commission’s preliminary estimates.