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

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs