Libyans eager to cast ballots in historic vote

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Libyan election officials work at a polling station in Tripoli, Libya, Friday, July 6, 2012. The Libyan National Assembly elections will take place on July 7, 2012 and will be the first free elections since 1969. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)

TRIPOLI – Voters queued up at polling stations across Libya on Saturday keen to take part in the country’s first national election after more than four decades of dictatorship.

In Tripoli, voting centers opened on schedule at 0500 GMT with lines of people eager 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 waiting to vote 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 told Agence France-Presse.

Voters turned up draped in black, red and green flags – the colours of the revolt that toppled long-time dictator Moamer Kadhafi last year – while mosques blasted chants of “Allahu Akbar” (God is greatest).

A festive mood overcame the streets of the capital with car horns blaring a steady beat.

Joy was also palpable in the eastern city of Benghazi, cradle of last year’s uprising and heartland of factions threatening to disrupt the vote in protest over the allocation of seats in the incoming congress.

Hueida Abdul Sheikh, a 47-year-old mother of three, was first in line in Benghazi in the hope that the vote she casts will bring about a brighter future for her and her children.

“I look forward for a better life as a Libyan and as a woman,” she said.

“I feel like my life has been wasted so far but now my children will have a better life. All they need is a push, and I believe the new leaders will give that push so that children can achieve their ambitions,” she added.

Another voter in Benghazi, policeman Yussef Amer Ali, said he had voted for “peace and security” in the hope that “all Libyans will achieve their dreams in this new country.”

A steady stream of people flowed into the polling stations of Libya’s two largest cities thrilled to be taking part in the country’s first general election since 1964.

Protesters in the east of the country who are unhappy over the distribution of seats in the incoming General National Congress have threatened to sabotage the vote, staging a string of disruptive acts of violence in recent days.

On Friday, gunfire struck a helicopter transporting voting material, killing an employee of the electoral commission and raising tensions ahead of the landmark vote.

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