Libya's independents are kingmakers in new assembly
By Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Ali Shuaib
TRIPOLI (Reuters) - As soon as it was clear that independent candidate Abedrabbah Yussef Bubreg was set to win a seat in Libya's first free national elections for a generation, his phone started ringing.
The two leading political groups - a liberal coalition led by wartime rebel prime minister Mahmoud Jibril and the political arm of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood - each wanted to know how he would align himself in the 200-member assembly.
"They wanted to know what my vision was, what my thoughts were for Libya's future and with whom I would cooperate," said the 52-year-old philosophy professor, who won a seat for the eastern town of Baida.
"I said I would not join any side for now and I want to see what is best for Libya's national interest."
Jibril's National Forces Alliance (NFA) trounced Islamist parties in the race for party seats in the July 7 poll, winning 39 positions out of the 80 reserved for political entities, compared to 17 for the Justice and Construction Party (JCP), the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.
But those impressive numbers do not translate into an automatic majority for Jibril. The remaining 120 seats in the assembly were allotted to independent candidates like Bubreg, whose allegiances are hard to pin down.
Mostly elected on the basis of local connections and reputation rather than ideology, this potentially fractious mish-mash of lawyers, businessmen, activists and former opponents of Muammar Gaddafi is set to play a pivotal role.
In the battle to hold sway over the assembly, where the most important decisions will require a two-thirds majority, both Jibril's NFA and the Brotherhood's JCP are scrambling to form alliances with independents and smaller parties. Continued...