Where it went wrong for Libya's Islamists

With most of the votes counted, a political bloc with a distinctly liberal air looks set to build a coalition and lead the new government in Libya, raising hard questions among the Islamist parties trailing in their wake.

A coalition, led by the former prime minister Mahmoud Jibril dominated the party poll in the elections. In one district in the capital, it won almost 10 times the votes of the nearest rival.

Only 80 seats out of 200 in the new General National Assembly are allotted to parties, with the rest composed of individual candidates, though Mr Jibril's National Forces Alliance seems likely to recruit enough individuals to build a ruling coalition and begin the body's primary work of creating a council to write a constitution.

To some, this is bewildering, after well-organised moderate Islamists swept to postrevolutionary power in Egypt and Tunisia.

 Islamists are now asking themselves what steered Libyan voters so firmly away from them.

One group, whose vast purple-and-grey posters still hang all over Tripoli, is Al Watan, headed by Abdelhakim Belhaj. Unlike Mr Jibril, who was a figurehead for the party but not a candidate, Mr Belhaj stood as a candidate in Tripoli, although he seems  unlikely to win the seat.

Mr Belhaj fought for years against Muammar Qaddafi's regime, conducting operations from Sudan, following a spell as a fighter in Afghanistan. Although his party officials stress their inclusiveness, he is seen as a staunch Islamist.

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