For supporters, however, Jibril represents the Libya they want to see take shape: politically centrist, outward-looking, respectful of Islam but not beholden to it.
“I want a modern country, though not too liberal, because we’re Muslims,” says Nairuz Shihub, a young bank employee taking a lunch break this afternoon in the upscale district of Hay al Andalus. She voted for a party from within the NFA party.
“Jibril has a lot of plans for the economy and for education, and he’s not closeminded like the Islamists,” she says.
A former prime minister in the interim government appointed last year by the National Transitional Council (NTC), Jibril toured Libya for months to meet local leaders, says Faisel Krekshi, the NFA’s secretary general. “The main thing they all have in common is a basic principle: Start building Libya,” Mr. Krekshi says.
The NFA wants to form a unity government with rival groups, including Islamists such as the Justice and Construction Party, a Muslim Brotherhood branch, and the Nation Party.
“This country is 100 percent Muslim; talking about secularism would be stupid,” Krekshi says. “Religion cannot be an obstacle to restarting the country.”
The NFA rejects political Islam. But its manifesto cites Islam as a source of law while pledging respect of other religions and foreigners’ freedom to practice them.
It remains to be seen how votes will stack up in official results expected later this month. Even with a high score, the NFA might splinter or fail to find partners.
Islamists might deem Jibril insufficiently pious, while eastern Libyans might criticize his service in an interim cabinet that some say has favored Tripoli, says Mustafa Fetouri, an independent Libyan academic in Belgium. Easterners have also complained that their region gets only 60 of 200 congressional seats, while Tripoli gets 102.