News / Middle East

Millions Vote in Libya's 'Extraordinary' Elections

Libyans celebrate on the streets in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square after casting their vote during the National Assembly election, July 7, 2012.
Libyans celebrate on the streets in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square after casting their vote during the National Assembly election, July 7, 2012.
VOA News
Counting has begun as polls closed across Libya, many Libyans taking to the streets to celebrate even though results may not be announced for days.

Voters streamed into polling stations in Tripoli and across Libya Saturday hoping the country's first multi-party elections in 60 years mark the start of a new era. In some parts of the capital crowds began gathering more than an hour before polling places opened.

The electoral commission said the turnout could exceed 60 percent.

In Tripoli, voter Allah Agars was overjoyed by the prospect of a new Libya free of the dictatorship of Moammar Gadhafi.

"It's a great, it's a great day for me because we had victory against Gadhafi and now we think we are very happy," Agars said. "We can build Libya now."

Camilla Rafifi, another Tripoli voter, was equally ecstatic.

"It really was a big dream for me. I didn't expect this day in all my life, really. I'm very, very, very happy," she said. "This will be in the history. We didn't expect this before."

  • Libyan voters line up at a polling station in Benghazi, July 7, 2012. Jubilant Libyans marked a major step toward democracy after decades of rule by dictator Moammar Gadhafi. "Don't forget the blood of the martyrs" is in Arabic at left.
  • Libyan men look for their names on a voters list at a polling station in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012.
  • A Libyan man casts his vote in a polling station in the former loyalist stronghold district of Abu Salim in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012.
  • Libyan men hold their elections ID cards while celebrating election day in Tripoli, Saturday, July 7, 2012.
  • A woman celebrates on the streets in Tripoli's Martyrs' Square after casting her vote during Libya's National Assembly election, July 7, 2012.
  • Libyans hold up their ink-marked fingers that shows they have voted as they celebrate in Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012.
  • Used ballot booklets, which were set on fire by anti-election protesters, are seen in a square in central Benghazi, Libya, July 7, 2012.
  • An official counts ballots at a polling station in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012.
  • People dance in the streets as they celebrate the national election in Benghazi,Libya, July 7, 2012.
  • Fireworks explode in the sky in Benghazi as people celebrate after polling stations closed during Libya's national election, July 7, 2012.

For the most part, Saturday's vote appeared to be peaceful and well organized. That drew praise from election observers like John Stremlau from the U.S.-based Carter Center.

"No election is ever easy, and for a country that has been so isolated for so long, is building state institutions so quickly, it's remarkable how much progress has been made in 11 months," he said. "Truly extraordinary. It should be a source of pride to the Libyan people; they have come so far so quickly."

 Nearly three million Libyans registered to vote for members of a 200-seat National Assembly, charged with forming a temporary government and drafting a constitution ahead of full parliamentary elections next year.

Election officials say 94 percent of all polling stations opened as planned. The only problems reported were in eastern Libya, including the cities of Benghazi and Ajdabiya, where protesters disrupted some polling centers and burned ballots.

In Ajdabiya, election officer Miftah al-Mgariaf said young residents were quick to respond.

"We were surprised by a group who attacked the guards at the polling station, and they set fire to the ballot boxes as you see, then the youths in the area brought more security to protect the polling station," al-Mgariaf said.

Later Saturday, Libya's electoral commission said voters at the sabotaged polling stations were being asked to go back and vote as new voting materials were being sent. There were also reports that voting at some of the troubled polling stations was extended to give people more time to cast their ballots.

Despite the problems, Libya's efforts got the approval of U.S. Senator John McCain.

"Already we started early at the polls and we observed the people who enthusiastically have exercised the fundamental right of people if you’re going to have a democracy and that is a fair election," he said. "There were some problems in the eastern part of the country. I’ve been informed that most of those problems have been resolved."

Even displaced Libyans got to vote.

Ahmed Elcash is among the many displaced residents of the town of Tawergha who cast his ballot at a refugee camp outside the capital.

"We feel sadness and sorrow because we voted outside our land," he said. "We hope the new government will be strong and fair and they will give us our land back."

Many of Tawergha's residents had been loyal to former dictator Gadhafi and fled their homes once his regime began to collapse.

Libya's revolution last year, one of the central events in the pro-democracy uprisings that became known as the Arab Spring, began in the east. Since Gadhafi was overthrown, however, some groups in Benghazi and other eastern cities have said they are being neglected and should have more authority in the new government.

More than 140 parties and small factions competed in the election. Analysts expect Islamists would do well, along with a secular group of officials who played a role in the country's post-Gadhafi transition.

You May Like

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid