TRIPOLI/BENGHAZI - Libya holds its first free national election in 60 years on Saturday in a vote designed to shake off the legacy of Muammar Gaddafi but which risks being hijacked by autonomy demands in the east and unrest in the desert south.

Voters will choose a 200-member assembly which will elect a prime minister and cabinet before laying the ground for full parliamentary elections next year under a new constitution.

Candidates with Islamic agendas dominate the field of more than 3,700 hopefuls, suggesting Libya will be the next "Arab Spring" country after Egypt and Tunisia to see religious parties secure footholds in power after last year's uprisings.

But the credibility of the vote will be wrecked if armed militia with regional or tribal loyalties discourage voters from turning out, or if disputes over the outcome degenerate into pitched battles between rival factions.

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