After four decades of political exclusion, Libyans flocked to the polls Saturday in celebratory fashion to take their first steps to building a free and democratic nation.
The landmark parliamentary vote was marred in places by disruptions that prompted polling centers to close but the overall turnout was greater than expected.
The last time Libya held an election was almost half a century ago and for many people, the act of casting a ballot was novel after 42 years of Moammar Gadhafi’s autocratic rule.
The excitement was palpable on the streets and by the numbers: More than 3,500 candidates stood in the election for a 200-seat national assembly. About 80% the 3.5 million eligible voters registered to cast a ballot.
Men and women, young and old waited patiently in long lines in cities and towns across Libya — some that were war zones only a year ago. After voting, jubilant Libyans proudly waved their right index finger smudged in purple indelible ink as proof of their participation.
Sizzling summer temperatures did not keep people away in Tripoli, where loudspeakers blared: “Allahu akbar” (God is great).