The vote is another step in Libya's transition after decades of
one-man rule, but it comes as the country slides towards chaos,
after a renegade army general opened a campaign against Islamist
militants in the east.
Participation is widely expected to be lower than it was in 2012
after the election commission tightened registration rules.
Around 1.5 million voters have registered, roughly half the 2.8
million registered in July 2012 for Libya's first free election in
more than 40 years. The country badly needs a functioning government
It is trying to impose authority over heavily armed former rebels,
militias and tribes that helped oust Gaddafi but who now defy state
authority and carve out their own fiefdoms.
Libya is also struggling with a budget crisis. A wave of protests at
oilfields and shipping ports by armed militias has reduced oil
production, the country's lifeline, to a trickle.
Tripoli's partners in the West hope the vote will help Libya begin
rebuilding a viable state. Divisions need to be bridged between the
country's western regions, once favored by Gaddafi, and the
neglected east, where many demand autonomy and a greater share of
the nation's oil wealth.
Western powers also worry that conflicts between militias and tribes
will worsen. Its nascent army, still in training, is no match for
fighters hardened during the eight-month uprising against Gaddafi.
In another division of a country with several power centers, the
Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, rooted in rural western coastal cities,
is vying with tribal areas in both the west and east for control of
the oil producer.
Many Libyans fear the vote will produce just another interim
assembly. A special body to draft a new national constitution has
still not finished its work, leaving questions over what kind of
political system Libya will eventually adopt.
To discourage political infighting between parties, which paralyzed
decision-making and led to a crisis over two rival prime ministers
in May, candidates must run as independents rather than as party
Polling stations opened at 0800 local time ,with few people queuing
at the start.
"The elections for the House of Representatives will be successful,"
said Zakaria Ianqi, a doctor, as he cast his vote in Benghazi. "We
won't repeat the mistakes of the General National Congress," he
said, referring to the current assembly, which many associate with
the country's stalemate.
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It will be a challenge to secure stations in Benghazi and other
parts of the east, where the renegade general Khalifa Haftar is
clashing with militant Islamists as he seeks to clear them from the
city. Haftar has said he will observe a truce on election day.
In Tripoli, former Prime Minister Ali Zeidan cast his vote after
returning from Europe, where he had fled when parliament ousted him
"We hope the elections will achieve their goals and that the House
of Representatives will make a new start better than the past," he
Electoral authorities tightened rules for registering to vote by
requiring voters to show a national identification number. Many
Libyans lack such documents, where security concerns and political
chaos have disrupted basic state services.
The new parliament will again be made up of 200 seats, but will be
called the House of Representatives. It will replace the GNC.
Thirty-two seats are allocated to women.
Around 1,600 candidates will be on the ballot, or about a thousand
less than in the previous parliamentary vote. Some candidates put up
street posters or platforms on social media, but the announcement of
the election left little time before voting began, and there has
been no real campaigning.
(Writing by Pat Markey; Editing by Larry King)
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