Mohammed el-Megarif elected as Libya’s interim president
Former opposition leader lived as a fugitive overseas for many years under late dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s rule
Libya’s newly formed national assembly elected former opposition leader Mohammed el-Megarif as the country’s interim president on Friday, the latest move to establish a democratically based leadership after decades of rule by deposed late dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
El-Megarif won 113 votes to defeat another opposition leader and human rights lawyer, Ali Zidan, who won 85 votes from the 200-member General National Congress, an assembly created in the first nationwide election since Gaddafi was ousted and killed last year. Both men had been diplomats who defected and fought Gaddafi’s regime while living in exile since the 1980s.
“This is a historic moment and no one is a loser,” said Hussein al-Ansari, who was elected to the assembly as an independent candidate.
El-Megarif, who wrote a series of books on Gaddafi’s repressive policies, lived as a wanted fugitive for years, and was the leader of the country’s oldest armed opposition movement, the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. The movement made several attempts to end Gaddafi’s 42-year rule, sometimes by plotting assassination attacks including a well-known and daring 1984 raid on Bab al-Aziziyah, the late dictator’s fortified compound in Tripoli.
The regime cracked down on the group, executing and arresting many of its members. Many fled abroad where they worked as political activists. El-Megarif’s movement organised the first Libyan opposition conference in London in 2005 and called for the overthrow of Gaddafi’s regime at a time when other groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, accepted Gaddafi.
Upon his return to Libya after last year’s armed revolution, he formed a new party, the National Front, which sees Islam as a broad guideline to the state’s affairs, but does not mention the implementation of sharia law.