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Voters Celebrate in Post-Gadhafi Libya
July 9, 2012

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Libyans have voted in widespread jubilation in the first free national election in decades.

The country, still struggling to come to grips with the depths and responsibility of the opportunities created by the death last year of Moammar Gadhafi, was in a wait-and-see mode, as anti-election protesters had promised massive demonstrations. Protests did occur, some violently. But the mood overall was a positive one, as voters got to choose potential members of a 200-person national assembly from a large number of political parties. Celebrations did occur in the major cities, with large fireworks displays reported in Tripoli, the capital, and Benghazi, the second-largest city and the opposition capital in 2011.

Political parties were banned under Gadhafi, and voters and potential politicians are still getting used to their newfound freedom. Many of the more than 100 political parties on the ballot have been formed only in the past few months.

Turnout was estimated to be at 60 percent, with 1.7 million of 2.8 million registered voters thought to have voted. Voting was lagging in some areas of the country, as polling stations struggled to overcome technological difficulties. Observers and elections officials reported no instances of voting irregularities.

The National Forces Alliance, a fragile grouping of dozens of political parties led by Mahmoud Jibril, who served as the opposition prime minister during last year's uprising against Gadhafi, claimed an early lead based on their own polling, but the national election commission said that it was too early to tell and that results would be released when they were final.

Other more well-known political parties included the Justice and Construction Party, the political branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; Al-Watan, run by former rebel militia leader Abdel Hakim Belhadj; and Centrist Current, led by former Oil Minister Ali Tarhouni.

Libya's last free election for members of Parliament was in 1952. The last significant nationwide vote was in 1965. (No political parties were allowed in that election.)

After Parliament membership is finalized, the National Transitional Council, the nominal government since the waning days of Gadhafi's regime, will set a date for the election of a 60-member panel to write the country's new constitution.

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