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Some encouraging signs from Libya

Libyans seem to have responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to participate in elections, with some asserting that women have been particularly eager to cast their votes.  There are indications that moderates are doing better than expected, whereas Islamists are attracting less support.

The Muslim fundamentalist parties that were expected to dominate the new parliament may not do so. First of all, only 80 of the 200 seats are allocated to parties, and the liberal party of former head of Qaddafi’s National Economic Development Board, Mahmoud Jibril, is said to be doing well in early returns and exit polls.

Here is Huda Abuzeid’s perspective on the polling:

The separation of women and men at the polling stations is in accordance with the country’s conservative traditions, which mandate that men and women who aren’t related not be in close quarters.

But as I listened to the women talk back and forth in line as we waited to vote, I realized the division  had an unintended consequence: it allowed women, who had registered to vote in high numbers, to decide independently who they chose, free of their husband’s or father’s pressure or choice.

Another observation I made was that the majority of women at the polling station were dressed conservatively, their heads covered in the Islamic headscarf.  I was one of the few with my hair uncovered.   Despite this fact, the overwhelming choice seemed to be for the secular-leaning Mahmoud Jibril, rather than the parties with a stronger Islamic identity such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s  ‘Justice and Development’ party, or ‘Watan’ (The Nation Party) led by former Islamic Fighting Group commander Abdel Hakim Belhaj.

Here Andrew Gilligan reports that Libya’s senior Muslim cleric issued a Fatwa against the moderate NFA.  But it would seem – at the moment – that voters have not heeded this decree.