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

    US Watching as North Korea Opens Biggest Political Meeting in Decades

    As Workers' Party Congress opens, Washington anticipating possibility of another missile launch or nuclear test as top officials gather

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora