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Libya May Buck Arab Spring Trend And Elect Moderate Prime Minister

Mahmoud Jibril speaks to in Tripoli, Libya on Sunday.
Manu Brabo
Mahmoud Jibril speaks to in Tripoli, Libya on Sunday.

Over the weekend, about 1.7 million Libyans cast a ballot to choose a prime minister. Like Tunisia and Egypt before it, these elections are the first free elections since a revolution toppled the country's dictator.

Moammar Gadhafi ruled since 1969.As Reuters reports, while there were some violent incidents and anti-vote protests, international observers gave the election process a thumbs up.

Reuters reports:

"The United Nations, United States and other Western backers of last year's uprising that ended the 42-year rule of Muammar Gaddafi have already given good marks to what was the North African state's first free national election in six decades.

"'It is remarkable that nearly all Libyans cast their ballot free from fear or intimidation,' Alexander Graf Lambsdorff of the European Union Assessment Team told a news conference.

"'These incidents do not put into question the national integrity of the elections as a whole,' he said, alluding to cases of thefts and burnings of ballot boxes and protests by demonstrators seeking more autonomy for the east of the country. Two people were reported killed in the unrest."

We won't know official results until late in the week, but preliminary results will be released today.

The New York Times reports that another big piece of news out of the country is that once it's all over, Libya may buck a trend set by other Arab Spring countries. In Libya, a moderate instead of an Islamist, is likely to come out on top.

The Times reports that preliminary results give the edge to Mahmoud Jibril, who served as interim prime minister after Gadhafi's ouster. Jibril, reports the Times was educated at the University of Pittsburgh and has taught there. The Times adds:

"In a campaign that took place over just two weeks, after a 40-year stretch in which Gaddafi crushed any dissent or political organising, the ideological lines for Libyan voters remained fuzzy. Many voters acknowledged plans to let tribal, family or community ties guide their vote.

"The Islamists, in contrast, sought to portray Mr Jibril's coalition as 'liberal' or 'secular' — and some who stood with him acknowledged privately that for them those terms were apt.

"Unlike opponents of Islamists in other Arab countries, Mr Jibril never hurled accusations of extremism against those who called for the application of Islamic law. He pledged to make sharia a main source of legislation, though not the only one."

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Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.