TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) -- Libyans are defying the turmoil roiling their nation to vote in parliament elections on Wednesday, the third nationwide balloting since the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
The country’s election commission said 1.5 million registered voters have the chance to cast ballots at 4,467 polling centers across the country and elect 200 members of parliament.
The vote is a key step in transition for the oil-rich Libya, embroiled in deep political chaos and instability mainly because of the absence of a strong military and police force. Successive transitional governments have depended on militias to achieve security.
Since Gadhafi’s ouster, Libya held parliament elections in 2012 and last year elected a 60-member panel to draft the country’s new constitution.
But it’s unclear how balloting for parliament can take place in violence-stricken east. In the provincial council elections, voters in the eastern city of Darna came under attack when militants bombed polling centers in their city, a stronghold of Islamic militias.
Libya has sunk into chaos following the downfall and the killing Gadhafi in the country’s 2011 civil war. Heavily armed militias, born out of the rebel groups that toppled Gadhafi, now are the main power in the country.
Tensions were also high Wednesday in Libya’s second largest city, Benghazi, where a renegade general is waging an offensive against Islamist militias. There have been near-daily clashes there, with bombings of several neighborhoods and residential areas.
Over the past weeks, forces allied with Gen. Khalifa Hifter have bombed the camps of Islamist militias, which in turn attacked his forces, including an assassination attempt on Hifter that killed four people.
The general has warned he will detain Islamist lawmakers, accusing them of financing militias which he blames for much of Libya’s chaos. In turn, Islamist politicians and others have accused him of launching a "coup," though many tired of the turmoil in Libya have backed him with mass rallies.