By Maha Ellawati
Benghazi, 3 July.
Demonstrations were planned for the second day running in Benghazi today, Tuesday, against the actions of federalists . . .[restrict]who on Sunday ransacked the city’s High National Elections Commission (HNEC) building and burned much of its contents outside. In the event, no one turned up.
On Monday, however, over 5,000 people joined a rally in support of Saturday’s National Conference elections this weekend. Alerted by text messages sent by Libyan mobile telecom company Almadar, local residents headed to the city’s Tahrir Square, where members of the local council condemned the attack. They said that the incident was outrageous and that government and NTC had to ensure that the elections took place as planned and on time.
The federalists, who have threatened to boycott the poll, have been demanding that the seats being contested in the elections be divided equally between the historic regions of Libya — Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan — rather than based on population. If fact, however, the system is already weighted heavily in Benghazi’s favour. It will have 26 seats in the National Conference as opposed to Tripoli’s 30, although it is less than half the size of Tripoli in terms of population.
A number of human rights activists, media personalities and intellectuals also took part in Monday’s mass demonstration. They angrily denounced the attack but also accused the prime minister and the ministers of the interior and justice of failing to provide adequate security around the HNEC’s offices.
The action of the federalists was an attack on democracy and an attempt to forcibly impose views on the public, they said. But they stressed that “this shameful act will not prevent us from continuing the democratic transition which has long being awaited. It is the dream of our martyrs and wounded, and the aspirations of those missing.”
Among those who participated in Monday’s demonstration was Ismael Salabi, a leader of one of the city’s brigades. Rejecting federalism, he called for national unity and and insisted that the National Conference elections must not be postponed.
The Bengahzi protestors say they plan to demonstrate every day against the federalists until the elections take place on Saturday, with a major protest on Friday. [/restrict]