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Libya's Goldilocks election: 'Neither Islamist, nor liberal'

A coalition of parties that has eschewed labels and instead called for pragmatism won nearly half the party seats in Libya's new congress, according to results from the July 7 election.

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Libyan National Transitional Council (NTC) Chairman Mustafa Abdel Jalil (3rd l. seated) and Libya's Prime Minister Abdurrahim El-Keib (5th r. seated) attend a news conference by Nouri al-Alabbar, Chairman of the Electoral Commission National Congress, to announce the results of the Libyan General Assembly election in Tripoli July 17.

Ismail Zitouny/Reuters

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Today Libyans were digesting headlines that confirm what many suspected: electoral victory for a coalition of parties that has dodged labels while calling for national unity.

The National Forces Alliance coalition (NFA), led by former interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, won nearly half of the seats reserved for parties in Libya’s new congress, according to results from July 7 elections that were released last night.

While media have trumpeted a liberal victory that bucks an Arab Spring trend of Islamist successes, some Libyans see things differently.

“Jibril’s in the middle,” says Ali al-Arabi, tending his cigarette shop in Tripoli’s bus station. “And that’s what I want: someone who’s neither Islamist nor liberal.”

Shunning both the liberal tag and its opposite in Libya, political Islam, Mr. Jibril has called for partnering with rivals – including a runner-up Islamist party – to form a government.

It is unclear how parties will respond, while independent candidates that hold 120 of the congress's 200 seats are still an unknown quantity.

For Mr. Arabi, cooperation is the best way to remake Libya following decades under the autocratic rule of Muammar Qaddafi, toppled by revolt last year.

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