Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

'What would you do?'

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Ebola virus: Liberia shuts most border points

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Netanyahu says Gaza operation will not end quickly

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Argentina braced for another debt default

Read more

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine (part 2)

Read more

FOCUS

As France’s Carrefour pulls out, what next for India’s retail market?

Read more

#TECH 24

Internet of Things

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - July 25th, 2014 (part 2)

Read more

  • Israeli strikes target symbols of Hamas power

    Read more

  • US says Russia violated arms treaty by testing cruise missile

    Read more

  • Argentina in last-ditch effort to avert default

    Read more

  • Karzai’s cousin killed in Afghan suicide attack

    Read more

  • Libya oil tanker fire blazes out of control

    Read more

  • In pictures: From Gaza to Mosul, bittersweet end of Ramadan for Muslims

    Read more

  • France offers asylum to Iraqi Christians

    Read more

  • Moroccan police arrest French al-Qaeda recruiter

    Read more

  • Israel warns of ‘prolonged’ campaign in Gaza

    Read more

  • French mayor files complaint against US father who risked kids’ lives on Mont Blanc

    Read more

  • French footballer Griezmann headed to Atletico Madrid

    Read more

  • Luc Besson’s sci-fi thriller ‘Lucy’ tops US box office

    Read more

  • Video: Slaviansk mourns mass grave victims

    Read more

  • France honours those lost on Air Algérie Flight AH5017

    Read more

  • Video: Ethiopia turns to wine to boost image, economy

    Read more

  • Thousands gather in Marseille in support of Israel

    Read more

Africa

Vote hailed as democratic milestone despite violence

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-07-08

Voting officials said almost 60% of Libyan voters turned out to cast their ballots in the country’s first free national election, widely hailed as the beginning of a new era of freedom despite violent incidents in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi.

REUTERS - Libyans are celebrating their first free national election in 60 years after defying violence to turn out for a poll widely seen as drawing a line under Muammar Gaddafi's dictatorship.

Revellers lit the night sky over the capital, Tripoli, with fireworks, while in the eastern city of Benghazi, scene of anti-poll protests by those wanting more autonomy, people celebrated by firing rocket-propelled grenades in the direction of the sea.

Even in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte, which saw some of the worst fighting and damage in last year's NATO-backed uprising to end his 42-year rule, there was relief that the vote on Saturday had gone smoothly.

"Allahu akbar (God is greatest), this is the freedom era - for the first time Sirte is free," chanted a local woman as she celebrated with her family.

One man was shot dead by a security guard on Saturday as he tried to steal a ballot box in the eastern town of Ajdabiya. Another was killed in gunfire in a clash between protesters and backers of the poll in Benghazi, cradle of last year's uprising.

But as voting closed around the country, officials said 98 percent of poll centres had opened at some point during the day for the ballot for a 200-member assembly that will name a prime minister and pave the way for parliamentary elections in 2013.

The election commission said after voting ended that 1.6 million of some 2.8 million registered voters had cast their ballots, a turnout of just under 60 percent.

Asked at a news conference when results would be published, commission chairman Nuri Al-Abbar said they would start to emerge on Monday, but added, "The first winner is the Libyan people."

Candidates with Islamist agendas dominate the field of more than 3,700 hopefuls, suggesting Libya will be the next Arab Spring country - after Egypt and Tunisia - to see religious parties secure a grip on power.

The publication of results could yet be a potential flashpoint if rival factions dispute the outcome in a country still awash with arms from its civil war.

Tense standoffs

In Benghazi, protesters stormed a polling station just after voting started and set fire to hundreds of ballot slips in a public square in a bid to undermine the election's credibility.

"There wasn't enough security at the station to stop the attackers," Nasser Zwela, 28, told Reuters. At least four voting centres were the scenes of tense standoffs between anti-poll protesters and armed locals seeking to prevent any disruption.

Supporters of the NATO-backed uprising that overthrew Gaddafi dismissed suggestions that the violence showed the election lacked legitimacy.

Benghazi residents protect polling station



"After more than 40 years in which Libya was in the grip of a dictator, today's historic election underscores that the future of Libya is in the hands of the Libyan people," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement.

Obama pledged the United States would act as a partner even as he cautioned there would still be difficult challenges ahead.

"Just one year ago, Libyans were still fighting against a brutal tyrant," said British Foreign Secretary William Hague, whose government was a main player in the conflict.

"Today marks a further milestone towards realising Libyans' ambitions for a peaceful, stable, prosperous and democratic country," said Hague.

Yet many easterners remain angry the east has been allotted only 60 seats in the assembly compared with 102 for the west and have vowed to keep up their fight for greater national representation.

"We don't have a law to control political parties, we don't have a constitution yet. How can they consider this a legitimate congress?" said 25-year-old student Abdelwahab Al-Ghazali.

On Friday, armed groups shut off half of Libya's oil exports to press demands for greater representation in the assembly. At least three major oil-exporting terminals were affected.

Analysts say it is hard to predict the political make-up of the new assembly, but parties and candidates professing an attachment to Islamic values dominate and very few are running on an exclusively secular ticket.

The Justice and Construction offshoot of Libya's Muslim Brotherhood is tipped to do well, as is al-Watan, the party of former CIA detainee and Islamist insurgent Abdel Hakim Belhadj. 

Date created : 2012-07-08

  • LIBYA

    Liberals claim lead in Libyan election

    Read more

  • LIBYA

    Libyans vote in first elections since fall of Gaddafi

    Read more

  • LIBYA

    Burgeoning Libyan Islamists hoping to ride political wave

    Read more

COMMENT(S)