Libya vote gives liberal bloc an edge but no majority

Libya's liberal coalition beat Islamist parties in the first poll since the ouster of Moamer Kadhafi, according to results unveiled -- but it remained unclear who will dominate the next congress.

The National Forces Alliance, a liberal coalition led by wartime prime minister Mahmud Jibril, gained 39 of 80 seats open to parties in the General National Congress, the first elected authority after more than four decades of dictatorship.

The Justice and Construction Party, which was launched by Libya's Muslim Brotherhood, took only 17 seats. The remainder of party seats went to a constellation of smaller parties, according to the electoral commission's preliminary figures.

The complete tally, however, does not paint a clear picture about who will dominate the incoming congress, where the majority of seats -- 120 of 200 -- were reserved for individual candidates.

The two leading parties are courting independents and smaller entities in a bid to form a dominant bloc within the congress, where major decisions and legislation require a two-thirds majority to pass.

If liberals do manage to hold sway over the assembly, Libya, unlike neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt whose strongmen were also toppled in last year's Arab Spring, will buck the trend of electoral success for Islamist movements.

The NFA coalition brings together some 60 parties and independent figures, led by technocrats who lived abroad and advocate a moderate Islam, economic liberalisation and openness to the West.

NFA leader Jibril, who played a key role drumming up international support for the 2011 revolution that toppled Kadhafi's regime, has called for all parties to join a national unity dialogue in a bid to form an even broader coalition.

Meanwhile Mohammed Sawan, head of the Justice and Construction Party, has expressed confidence that a large number of independents in the congress will side with Islamists.

At least 30 women secured seats in the congress. Only one female independent candidate was elected.

In all, women will hold approximately 16.5 percent of the 200 seats.

The results come 10 days after landmark elections hailed by world leaders.

They were unveiled in a grand ceremony attended by Libyan officials including Mustafa Abdel Jalil, leader of the National Transitional Council, and interim prime minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib, as well as foreign diplomats.

Libya's new congress is tasked with appointing a new interim government and steering the country for a roughly one-year transition period, until fresh elections can be held on the basis of a new constitution.

The electoral commission put voter turnout at 62 percent of registered voters.

It has granted a two-week window for candidates to review and appeal results.

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