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Published: Friday June 27, 2014 MYT 2:26:33 AM
Updated: Friday June 27, 2014 MYT 2:28:10 AM

Libya to move new parliament to Benghazi despite collapse of security

TRIPOLI (Reuters) - Libya's new parliament will hold sessions in the eastern port city of Benghazi from Aug. 1 onwards to help implant state institutions in a region where law and order has largely collapsed, officials said on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the North African state elected a new assembly in a vote marred by a very low turnout and violence, opening a new chapter in Libya's bumpy transition towards democracy since the 2011 fall of Muammar Gaddafi to an armed uprising.

Officials of the outgoing parliament said the next assembly would take up residence in Libya's second-largest city, part of efforts to rebuild state authority in the underdeveloped east that was long neglected by Gaddafi.

Security has unravelled in Benghazi since a renegade general declared war on militant Islamists in the east in mid-May, turning parts of the city into battle grounds.

"The first meeting for the House of Representatives will be on the first of August this year," said Farj Najam, chairman of the preparatory committee for the House of Representatives, the name of the new parliament.

Lawmakers of the OPEC member state will set up shop in the Tibesti hotel, Benghazi's biggest and located in the centre of the city.

"All House meetings, its duties and press conferences will take place in the hotel," Najam said, and the handover ceremony with the old assembly would take place in Benghazi, not in the capital Tripoli as suggested by the outgoing speaker.

It was not clear how the government would secure the parliament from armed groups. Benghazi, like much of Libya, is effectively controlled by militias that underpinning the uprising which ousted Gaddafi but now do what they want.

Libya's nascent army is no match for former rebels battle-hardened during the eight-month uprising in 2011.

Election results are expected in the coming days, but fewer than half of eligible Libyans voted, a paltry turnout reflecting disillusion with the chaos prevailing since Gaddafi's overthrow.

In a shock to many Libyans, gunmen shot dead on Wednesday Benghazi lawyer Salwa Bugaighis, a prominent female human rights activist who helped organise the Benghazi protests against Gaddafi that kicked off the uprising.

A security official said unknown people had entered her house to assassinate her, hours after she had cast her vote.

On Thursday, a car bomb exploded in the eastern town of Beida outside the building where experts have been working on a draft of Libya's future constitution, security officials said. One person was wounded.

(Additional reporting by Feras Bosalum and Ayman al-Warfalli; Writing by Ulf Laessing; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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