Partial results from Libya’s elections commission showing that the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party had been beaten into second place did not prove the group’s defeat, said Alamin Belhaj (pictured), the party’s campaign manager.
“Nobody can predict the result of the election,” he said. Mr Belhaj also said the party would do better than early results suggested and would not join a coalition led by the National Forces Alliance of Mahmoud Jibril. Mr Jibril is a former opposition leader who holds a University of Pittsburgh PhD.
Libyans went to the polls on Saturday in their first free national elections in more than 40 years, amid political violence that has hampered efforts to rebuild the country after last year’s uprising to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
Libyan Islamist groups had sought to emulate the success of their counterparts in Tunisia and Egypt, a trend which culminated in the election of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed Mohamed Mursi as Egypt’s president last month.
The Brotherhood’s party was pushed into second place in all three regions where results were declared on Monday, with the a lliance winning two. Mr Jibril’s grouping beat the Justice and Construction Party by 26798 votes to 2423 in Janzour, a suburb of Tripoli, and by 19200 to 5626 in Zlitan, a coastal town 160km east of the capital.
Another batch of results released on Tuesday showed further overwhelming wins for Mr Jibril’s grouping. The alliance came first in three of the four areas declared, including Tubruq, Sebha and Almaya, where it won about 90% of the votes cast. The Brotherhood took the southern seat of Brak, its first win.
Mr Belhaj, a member of Libya’s transitional council, accused the alliance of unfair campaign tactics, such as the use of Mr Jibril’s face on campaign posters even though he was not standing for the national assembly. “Mr Jibril is not a candidate, while his picture is all over the country, it’s a way of tricking people,” he said.
Mr Belhaj left for Egypt earlier this week to congratulate Mr Mursi on his victory.
Preliminary returns from Benghazi, the country’s second-biggest city, also showed Mr Jibril’s alliance taking more than 50% of the vote, according to the Libya Herald newspaper, citing unnamed officials.
The political parties are competing for 80 seats, while individual candidates vie for the other 120.
Gaddafi was killed in October after eight months of fighting between loyalists and rebels. Skirmishes were reported ahead of the election, and there is concern that heavily armed militia, with artillery, will resume fighting for control of the oil-rich North African country.
Mr Jibril campaigned as a conservative pledging a secular approach to government, which “probably suits a substantial portion of the population”, Crispin Hawes, a director at the Eurasia Group, said.
“Libyan government departments and state companies are full of well-educated and technically adept staff that are also genuinely conservative and observant Muslims. Jibril fits that very well.”