Tensions are running high in Libya as the Higher National Electoral Commission (HNEC) prepares to hold the country’s first general elections since 1964.

Voting began on 4 July for Libya expatriates across the region, but domestically, within Libya the mood is volatile. Protesters and militias stormed the HNEC’s headquarters in Benghazi on 1 July after the ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) rejected demands for the eastern province to be given an equal share of seats in the new parliament, the General National Congress (GNC).

The electoral campaign began on 18 June and ends on 5 July. An estimated 2.7 million Libyans have registered, around 80 per cent of those eligible to vote.

More than 2,500 independent candidates and 1,200 from 142 political parties are running for election.  They are competing for 200 seats in the GNC, which are distributed across Libya’s 13 districts. Tripoli and the west of Libya have been allocated more than 100 seats, compared to the eastern provinces which have only 60.

Once the GNC is established, the interim NTC, which is made up of 85 officials, will be disbanded. However, the GNC itself is an interim body with the primary task of selecting a 60 member committee to draft a constitution. This must be adopted with a two-thirds majority before being ratified by  a referendum.  Another set of general elections is planned to be held within 180 days from the constitution referendum. The whole process could be over by the middle of 2013.