- Associated Press - Sunday, July 8, 2012

TRIPOLI, Libya — A liberal alliance led by a former Libyan rebel prime minister said Sunday the party’s unofficial preliminary results put it in the lead in the country’s landmark parliamentary elections, the first since the ouster of dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

Faisal Krekshi, secretary general of the Alliance of National Forces led by Mahmoud Jibril, said the results were based on reports by party representatives at ballot-counting centers across the vast desert nation.

He provided no details, and the head of the election commission refused to confirm Mr. Krekshi’s claims.

“We are all waiting, and we have nothing to suggest that one party is ahead of others,” election commission chief Nouri al-Abar told reporters. He also refused to set a date for announcing the full official results.

Libyans turned out en masse Saturday to cast their ballots for the 200-seat parliament. Eighty seats are set aside for party lists, while the remaining 120 are for individual independent candidates.

Officials from two other parties - the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction Party and the Islamist Al-Watan - said Mr. Jibril’s alliance was the biggest winner in the race for the 80 party seats. They based their statements on their own party representatives at polling centers. They did not provide a breakdown.

With the majority of parliament’s seats dedicated to individual candidates, Mr. Jibril’s Alliance of National Forces is not guaranteed of being the dominant force in the legislature.

Mr. Jibril was a senior official and economist under Gadhafi’s regime until he changed sides and joined the rebels after the uprising broke out, serving as the rebels’ interim prime minister for almost eight months.

Mr. Jibril, himself, could not run on the ballot because election laws prevent members of the interim National Transitional Council from running, but he serves as the leader of the coalition that brings together some 40 liberal parties.

The vote capped a chaotic transition that has exposed major fault lines in the country, ranging from the east-west divide to efforts by Islamists to assert power.

The election was a key milestone after a bitter civil war that ended Gadhafi’s four-decade rule. It was also the first time Libyans have voted for a parliament since 1964, five years before Gadhafi’s military coup that toppled the monarchy.

The North African nation of 6 million people has fallen into turmoil since Gadhafi was killed by rebel forces in his home city of Sirte in late October. Armed militias operate independently, refusing to be brought under the umbrella of a national army, and deepening regional and tribal divisions often devolve into bouts of violence.

Many people in eastern Libya resent what they perceive as a power grab by their rivals in the west. Some easterners boycotted Saturday’s election in protest, and there was a spate of attacks on polling centers in the east that, in some cases, halted voting in some areas.