By George Grant.
Benghazi, 7 July:
Voting in Ajdabiya was being delayed after federalists stole the ballot papers and other election material early . . .[restrict]this morning. The papers were flown in from Dubai last night to replace those destroyed on Thursday when federalists burned the main election materials storage depot in the town.
Officials from the High National Election Commission (HNEC) were rushing new papers to Ajdabiya so that people can still vote today. It was reported at 11am that some stations in the town were now open for voting.
“I’m very upset this has happened,” said Omar Naas, a local party leader in Benghazi. “I’m close to tears.”
Meanwhile in Gahmines, 50 kilometres west of Benghazi, two of three polling centres were closed following attacks by gunmen who burned ballot papers and other election materials. Voting in the village has been postponed.
In Brega, vehicles carrying election material to the polling stations were also attacked this morning and ballot papers stolen. The election there is also reported to have been officially postponed
There have also been reports in Benghazi that a polling station in Hawari had been attacked but there has been no confirmation so far. Sustained machine gun fire was heard in the city during the morning and gun-mounted pickup trucks could be seen rushing round the city.
The firing was thought to be to intimidate people against voting.
Security is very tight around all polling centres, with at least 30 guards at every station. In one visited this morning in Benghazi, there were 38.
Outside a polling station on Pepsi Street in Fuwayhat, 100 people formed a human shied top to protect it from attack.
The actions of the federalists have created a strong backlash amongst many local residents. “This is not federalism, it’s terrorism”, said local Benghazi resident Jalal Al-Barassi.
“This is like cowboys gambling in the Wild West,” said Fathi Faraj, a local librarian. “When they lose, what do they do? They overturn the tables and start shooting. But it’s too late.”
In Tripoli, there are reports of a polling staion in Bab Ben Gashir being forcibly closed, not by federalists but by local voters furious when they discovered that in their area there was no vote for individual candidates, only part lists.
In some places in Tripoli, voters were seen bowing in front of the ballot boxes before casting their vote.
Additional reporting by Michel Cousins and Ashraf Abdul-Wahab in Tripoli. [/restrict]