TRIPOLI - Libya’s newly empowered top legislative body elected as its president late on Thursday a veteran opponent of Moamer Kadhafi’s ousted regime who is seen as pro-Islamist.
Mohamed al-Megaryef, a founding member of the Libyan National Salvation Front, which grouped exiled opponents of the now slain dictator, defeated liberal independent Ali Zidane in a run-off by 113 votes to 85 in the 200-member General National Congress. The vote in the assembly, elected in landmark polls on July 7, came after the National Transitional Council handed over power on Wednesday, in a symbolic move marking the first peaceful transition in Libya’s modern history after four decades of Kadhafi’s iron-fisted rule. The assembly is tasked with choosing an interim government that will steer the country until fresh elections can be held under a new constitution to be drafted by a panel of 60 members. Its new president is an economist with a doctorate from Britain, who held leading posts in the Kadhafi regime in the 1970s before defecting in 1980 to join the opposition in exile.
Hounded by Kadhafi’s intelligence service, Megaryef survived assassination attempts in Rome in 1981, in Casablanca in 1984 and in Madrid in 1985, his daughter Asma said. The Kadhafi regime also took reprisals against family members who stayed in Libya, jailing several of his brothers. Regarded as a moderate Islamist close to the Muslim Brotherhood, Megaryef was elected to the assembly on the ticket of his former exiled grouping, now renamed the National Front Party.
A member of the Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party (JCP), who asked not to be identifed, said Megaryef’s election was “a victory for the Islamists.” But an independent assembly member said several members voted for him on geographical and not religious or political grounds.