TRIPOLI, Libya – Libyans went to the polls Saturday for the country’s first multi-party election in 60 years. Midway through the day of voting, there no disruptions or major incidents. It was an emotional moment for people who have lived through 42 years of dictatorship and a bloody revolution.
Libyan drivers honked in celebration as they passed young revolutionary fighters guarding a key intersection. Just nine months ago, the young men were fighting the forces of Moammar Gaddhafi.
At a school in a working class neighborhood, women celebrated and showed off their ink-stained fingers, evidence that they had voted.
Inside, in separate men’s and women’s voting rooms procedures were followed with precision and respect.
There are dozens of Islamist and relatively secular parties, and hundreds of independent candidates. Islamists are expected to do well, but 23-year-old recent university graduate Farah Moterdy said she would not be voting for them, fearing they would try to restrict women’s rights.
“My heart is beating quickly,” Moterdy said. “Yesterday I was crying when I see the pictures of the people who are in the election. Who will we choose of them? I don’t know. We want to make the future for Libya. It depends on us. This is what I know. It depends on us.”
Businessman Suleiman Giornazi was also emotional, calling the election a fantastic achievement. He said he is not worried about ongoing conflicts in the countryside involving dissatisfied militias and tribes.
“Nothing bothers me,” he said. “The only thing that bothers me is Gadhafi, and he’s gone. And we will be all right. This is hiccups and doesn’t mean nothing to us. We for sure will get over it.”
Voting went surprisingly smoothly after extensive training of Libyan election workers and observers. The head of the Shahed Network for Election Observing, Abdelkarim Mohammed Hassan, gave up his own chance to vote near his home in the east to help with the election in Tripoli.
“What I’ve seen here in Tripoli is great,” said Hassan. “And also I have some contacts from my coordinators in different cities and towns in Libya. They are saying it’s going great and it’s going good. And I think we’re going to pass this, Inshallah [God willing].”
Nearly three million people registered to vote, about 80 per cent of those eligible. They are choosing among 1,400 candidates for 200 seats in a National Assembly that will form an interim government and write a new constitution. Voting was complicated, and the outcome will be decisive for Libya’s future.
But on Saturday Libyans of all ages put their concerns aside and celebrated the simple but hard-fought triumph of their first post-revolution election day. VOA