Facts about key parties in Libya’s election

Jul 7, 2012, 9:36 PM

(AP) – Libyans went to the polls Saturday in the country’s first free national election since the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi last year. Voters are electing a 200-member assembly whose first task will be naming a new government. Here are some details about the key parties vying for seats:

THE JUSTICE AND CONSTRUCTION PARTY (ISLAMIST):

This is the main political arm of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, though party leaders have tried to distance themselves from the Brotherhood name by saying the party is only co-founded by some of the group’s Islamists. High-level members of the party include non-Brotherhood people.

The party is led by Mohammed Sawan, who spent eight years in prison under Gadhafi because of his affiliation with the Brotherhood. He is also a former member of the Brotherhood’s top decision-making council in Libya.

The party’s leaders have also said that it is independent from other Brotherhood groups in the region, including in Egypt, where a Brotherhood candidate was recently sworn in as president.

In its political platform, the party calls for “abiding by the principles of Islam” and believes that Islamic Sharia law should be the main source of legislation.

THE ALLIANCE OF NATIONAL FORCES (LIBERAL):

The group is a liberal coalition of 40 political parties, 236 NGOs and 280 independent figures.

The coalition is led by Mahmoud Jibril, who was a senior official and economist under Gadhafi’s regime until he joined sides with the uprising, serving as the rebels’ interim prime minister for almost eight months. He enjoys the support of one of the country’s largest tribes, the Warfala. Jibril himself cannot run on the ballot because election laws prevent members of the interim National Transitional Council from running.

In its political platform, the alliance states that Islamic Sharia law should be the main source of legislation, but adds that the state must respect all religions and sects, including religious rituals of foreigners living in Libya.

THE AL-WATAN PARTY, also known as THE NATION PARTY (ISLAMIST):

The party was founded by ex-Jihadist and former rebel commander Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and ultraconservative Muslim leader Ali al-Salab, a leading figure among Libya’s ultraconservative Salafis.

Al-Salab is believed to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and helped mediate the release of Belhaj from prison a year before the revolution. Belhaj had been imprisoned under Gadhafi for being a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which led an insurgency against Gadhafi’s regime in the mid-1990s.

Opponents say the party is partly funded by the Arab Gulf country of Qatar. Party members deny the accusation and say all their funding is from Libyans.

The party’s platform is very similar to that of the Justice and Construction party.

THE CENTRIST NATIONAL PARTY (SECULAR):

A liberal party led by Ali Tarhouni, a former professor in the United States and later oil and finance minister under the transitional government who enjoys a good reputation for having had no ties to the Gadhafi regime.

The party is one of the few whose platform makes no reference to Islamic Sharia law and only identifies Libya as a moderate Muslim country.

THE NATIONAL FRONT PARTY:

The party is an offshoot of the National Front for the Salvation of Libya, which included a mix of Islamists and secularists who were part of the armed opposition that for decades carried out assassination attempts against Gadhafi, including the famous 1984 attack on Bab al-Aziziyah, the late dictator’s fortified compound in Tripoli.

The regime cracked down on the group, executing and arresting many of its members. Many sought exile and worked in political activism against Gadhafi from abroad. The movement organized the first Libyan opposition conference abroad in London and called for toppling Gadhafi’s regime several years ago.

The party is headed by Mohammed al-Magarif, a well-respected Libyan nationalist and former opposition leader.

The party sees Islam as a broad guideline to the state’s affairs, but does not mention the implementation of Islamic Sharia law.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Facts about key parties in Libya’s election