TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI (Reuters) - Libya’s wartime rebel prime minister Mahmoud Jibril called for the some 150 political parties in the North African nation to back the creation of a grand coalition government, as election results were due to come in on Monday.
The call came as Libyans celebrated Saturday’s largely peaceful national assembly election, the first free national poll in Libya after 42 years of Muammar Gaddafi which went ahead despite widespread fears of violence.
First official results were due on Monday and Jibril declined comment on speculation his own National Forces Alliance (NFA) of around 60 parties was leading Islamic groups including the political wing of Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood.
“We extend an honest call for a national dialogue to come altogether in one coalition, under one banner ... This is an honest and sincere call for all political parties operating today in Libya,” Jibril said.
“In yesterday’s election there was no loser or winner ... Whoever wins, Libya is the real winner,” he told a late-night news conference on Sunday.
Jibril is a fluent English-speaker who was the main point man of the rebel National Transitional Council (NTC) with Western backers including France, Britain and the United States.
He rejected descriptions of the NFA as secular and liberal, saying a commitment to tenets of Islamic law was among its core principles - a comment which could facilitate efforts to form ties with more overtly Islamist parties.
No comment was immediately available from leading groups such as the Justice and Construction Party, the political branch of the Libyan counterpart of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Watan, an Islamist group led by former rebel militia leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj, said it would study the call on Monday.
If such a grand coalition were formed it would inevitably dominate the new 200-head assembly for which Libyans voted on Saturday and whose tasks include naming a prime minister and cabinet to serve before full parliamentary polls due in 2013.
Nearly 1.8 million of 2.8 million registered voters cast their ballots, a turnout of around 65 percent. Two deaths were reported as protesters in eastern Libya sought to disrupt the vote they see as a power grab by Tripoli and the west region.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon nonetheless hailed the “peaceful, democratic spirit” of the vote and U.S. President Barack Obama said he looked forward to working with the new Libyan leadership.
However the storming of four voting centres by protesters in Benghazi, cradle of last year’s uprising, underlined that eastern demands ranging from greater political representation for the region to all-out federalism will not go away.
Local gunmen demonstrated their grip on the eastern oil terminals from which the bulk of Libya’s oil exports flow by blocking three main ports a day before the vote. The National Oil Corporation confirmed on Sunday that activities were back to normal after a 48-hour stoppage.
Many easterners are furious that their region, one of three in Libya, was only allotted 60 seats in the new assembly compared to 102 for the western region.
“There should be a serious dialogue (with the east). As there is a sincere wish on their part and on our part I think we can reach a compromise,” said Jibril, who declined to specify what role he saw for himself in Libyan politics.
Analysts say one of Libya’s priorities is to address the eastern grievances in the drafting of a new constitution, even if a move to all-out federalism is unlikely.
“The government recognises there is an overall unhappiness in the east and they are willing to address that issue. It will probably be termed more as decentralisation,” said Claudia Gazzini of the International Crisis Group. (Additional reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Ali Shuaib in Tripoli and Taha Zargoun in Sirte; Writing by Mark John; Editing by Anna Willard, Philippa Fletcher and Robin Pomeroy)