BENGHAZI: Hundreds of protesters burned ballots to demand greater representation although most residents of the Mediterranean city of Benghazi voted on Saturday in historic elections vowing to build a new Libya.
Gunfire echoed after around 200 demonstrators filled a major square in the eastern city, which was the cradle of last year’s revolt that ousted Muammar Qadhafi. They were encircled by cars of supporters of the vote for a national assembly and later by at least a dozen military vehicles whose forces fired into the air in a show of strength.
But as soon as the armed forces left, the protesters began to attack the civilian cars, damaging several of them.
“We are the ones who started the rebellion and now nobody is bothered about us. Nobody wants to talk to us. All we are asking for is a proper democratic process,” said one demonstrator, who gave his name as Fuad Al Obeidi.
“Let the constitution be written first then hold the elections with equal number of seats for every region. I have boycotted the election along with my family,” the 32-year-old government employee said.
Elsewhere, gunmen attacked a polling station at Tulay Tala school in Benghazi Jadida in the city’s southwest, destroying the ballot boxes and firing into the air before fleeing, according to witnesses.
Earlier, voting was marred by attacks by protesters calling for greater representation at one polling centre in the city and some other parts of eastern Libya.
They forced the closure of several polling stations in areas outside Benghazi, but failed to dampen the enthusiasm of most of the city’s residents to cast their ballot. Groups of young men carrying machineguns were patrolling various streets, especially near polling centres, offering what they said was “protection to voters and voting centres.”
But protesters demanding greater representation for eastern Libya, forcefully closed several polling stations. Some voting centres were also shut in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, where a depot containing electoral material was torched earlier this week, an official in Benghazi said.
Another official said voting was disrupted at oasis towns in southeastern Libya, including Jalo and Ojla, after federalism supporters prevented a plane carrying polling material from taking off.