Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Libya's Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib, March 8, 2012, at the State Department in Washington
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Libya's Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib, March 8, 2012, at the State Department in Washington

The publisher of the Libya Herald, an independent newspaper, says Libyans are excited to vote in their first democratically organized elections in over four decades, Saturday.

 Sami Zaptia, who is also an economist, said Libya’s National Transitional Council has kept its promise to organize a vote as part of the country’s democracy journey following the ouster and subsequent death of long-time leader Moammar Gadhafi.

“As for the mood, it’s fever pitch excitement... [Most of] this generation, born [after] the last election during the king’s time in the 50’s and 60’s, have never witnessed or experienced elections. So, they are very excited and looking forward to Saturday [for] those of us within Libya to cast our vote,” Zaptia said.

Election officials say Libyans residing abroad have begun voting ahead of the poll. About 2.8 million citizens have registered, representing about 80 percent of all eligible voters. 

Zaptia said election organizers didn’t have enough time to adequately prepare for this Saturday’s vote. He said with over 100 political parties participating in the election, many prospective voters are not sure about who to support.

“Libyans are not ready; the process is all daunting and overwhelming. They needed a little bit more time... how can you understand and get to analyze the various personalities and policies of over 100 parties? It’s impossible,” said Zaptia.

Critics say the election should be scrapped. They claim foreigners are pressuring the country’s interim leaders to organize democratic elections, which they said is an imposition on Libya’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

They add that the democratic process might not work in the North African country. But Zaptia said those not enthused about the vote are a minority, who he said could be staunch supporters of the former Gadhafi regime.

“They have tried very hard to derail this train…With the figures of 80 percent of the people wanting to vote, despite just coming out of war situation, displacement, disorganization, that I think says a lot about Libyans’ enthusiasm,” he said.

Zaptia also dismissed as “baloney” so-called reasons why democracy is foreign to Libyans. He said the rationale is often used by tyrants to deprive their citizens of the right to choose their government and their leaders.

He said Libyans are excited about the prospects of country’s democracy.

“Libyans are all convinced that the ideas of having transparent, responsible representative leaders [are] a minimum necessity. They don’t want dictators, they don’t want families ruling them, and they don’t want mafia gangsters; no, we don’t want that,” Zaptia said.

“Libyans want governments that change regularly and the system that enables every citizen to change the government so that it is representative, responsive, and looks after the needs of its people.”

Clottey intv with Sami Zaptia, Libya economist and newspaper publisher