Libya votes despite security fears

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A Libyan woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote to elect Libya's the General National Congress at a polling station in the eastern city of Benghazi on 7 July 2012. (Photo: AFP – Mohammed Abed)

Published Saturday, July 7, 2012

Millions of voters were casting ballots on Saturday in Libya's first free national elections for decades after the ouster of dictator Muammar Gaddafi, but protesters disrupted some polling in the troubled east.

In Tripoli, voting got underway with queues of people keen to elect the General National Congress, which will be at the helm of the country for a transition period.

"Words cannot capture my joy, this is a historic day," said Fawziya Omran, 40, one of the first women in line at the Ali Abdullah Warith school in the heart of the capital.

"I've made my choice. I hope it is the right choice and that the candidate will not disappoint us," she said.

Voters in the capital turned up draped in black, red and green flags – the colors of the revolution that toppled Gaddafi last year while joy was also palpable in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of the uprising.

"I feel like my life has been wasted so far, but now my children will have a better life," said Hueida Abdul Sheikh, a 47-year-old mother of three in line.

However, protesters calling for greater representation forced the closure of several polling stations elsewhere in the tense region.

Some voting centers were shut in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, where a depot containing electoral material was torched this week, an official told AFP.

Another said voting was disrupted at southeastern oasis, including Jalo and Ojla, after federalism supporters prevented a plane carrying polling material from taking off.

And Abdeljawad al-Badin, spokesman of the self-appointed Cyrenaica Council, said voters in Quba, near the town of Derna, were boycotting the election altogether.

Protesters in the east, unhappy over the distribution of seats in the new assembly, had threatened to sabotage the vote, staging a string of disruptive acts of violence in recent days.

On Friday a helicopter carrying voting material made a forced landing outside Benghazi after being struck by anti-aircraft fire.

In Tripoli, a senior electoral official confirmed there had been some incidents in the east but dismissed reports the vote could be delayed in those areas, stressing they were working towards a solution.

"Ninety-two percent of voting centers are open," he said.

Interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil, who voted in his eastern home town of Al-Bayda, said the situation there was "excellent."

He expressed hope for a successful vote and hailed as a martyr an electoral worker killed on Friday.

"We hope that our brothers in Benghazi will stay away from such problems and that the voting will go ahead as planned," he told AFP.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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