Jubilant Libyans chose a new parliament today in their first nationwide vote in decades, but violence and protests in the restive east underscored the challenges ahead as the oil-rich North African nation struggles to restore stability after the ouster of longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.
One person was killed and two wounded in a gunbattle between security forces and anti-election protesters in the eastern city of Ajdabiya, according to the head of the election commission.
Nouri al-Abari said the polling center targeted by the protesters was later reopened and voting commenced normally.
The shooting followed a spate of attacks on polling centers in the eastern half of the country, which was the cradle of the revolution against Gaddafi but has become increasingly angry over the perceived domination of power by rivals in Tripoli.
The vote capped a chaotic transition that has exposed major fault lines ranging from the east-west divide to efforts by Islamists to assert power.
Lines formed outside polling centers more than an hour before they opened in the capital Tripoli, with policemen and soldiers standing guard and searching voters and election workers before they entered.
"I have a strange but beautiful feeling today," dentist Adam Thabet said as he waited his turn to cast a ballot. "We are free at last after years of fear. We knew this day would come, but we were afraid it would take a lot longer."
The election for a 200-seat parliament, which will be tasked with forming a new government, was a key milestone after a bitter civil war that ended Gaddafi's four-decade rule.
It was the first time Libyans have voted for a parliament since 1964, five years before Gaddafi's military coup that toppled the monarchy.
But the desert nation of 6 million people has fallen into turmoil since Gaddafi was killed by rebel forces in his home city of Sirte in late October.
Armed militias operate independently, refusing to be brought under the umbrella of a national army, and deepening regional and tribal divisions erupt into violence with alarming frequency.
Growing resentment in the east and the inability to rein in unruly militias have threatened to tear the country apart. Some easterners boycotted the election and protesters torched ballot boxes in 14 out of 19 polling centers in Ajdabiya, said Ibrahim Fayed, a former rebel commander in the area.
On the eve of the vote, gunmen shot down a helicopter carrying polling materials near the eastern city of Benghazi, birthplace of last year's revolution, killing one election worker on board, according to Saleh Darhoub, a spokesman for the ruling National Transitional Council. The crew survived after a crash landing.
The violence continued today, with protesters, some armed, attacking polling centers in the early hours in the eastern cities of Ajdabiya, Brega and Ras Lanouf, ransacking them and setting ballot papers ablaze.
Reflecting the lawlessness that has plagued the country since Gaddafi's ouster, protesters attacked a polling station in Benghazi only to be driven back by voters who fired their own weapons in the air, independent candidate Faiza Ali said. "Enough with the bloodshed," she said.
Nouri al-Abar, the head of the election commission, told reporters in Tripoli that 94 per cent of polling centers nationwide were open but acknowledged that "security conditions" prevented ballots from reaching some areas and ballots were destroyed in other cases.
Libyans Hold First Nationwide Vote in Decades
THE LATEST ISSUE
- World Cup Live, IND vs ENG: Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli Steady In Big Chase
- Who Are We To 'Question Zaira Wasim's Choices': Omar Abdullah On Actor's Decision To Quit Films
- Amid Water Scarcity In Country, PM Modi Pitches For Water Conservation In 'Mann Ki Baat'
- Not Just Milk, What's Common Between Rishabh Pant and Virender Sehwag
- Gunshots In Air, Sweets To Police Personnel: Akash Vijayvargiya Supporters Celebrate MLA's Release
- Trump's America Is Once Again Locking Horns With Iran. What Should India Do?
- Do Driving And Education Have A Connection?
- Ola, Ole! How's The Patient Doing?
- Salman Khan’s Fears Misplaced, No Reviewer Can Make Or Mar A Film Destined For Greatness
- With No Malls, No App-Based Economy, Kashmir Stuck At Where It Was 2 Decades Ago
- India, Pakistan And The Cost Of A Cup Of Tea In Kashmir
- Pakistan Fans To Support India Vs England, Sing Jana Gana Mana
- WATCH | Puddles Of Water On Viewing Gallery's Floor In Sardar Patel's Statue Of Unity
- Muslim Mother Who Named Her Child 'Narendra Modi' Wants To Change His Name, But...
- Telangana: Woman Official Goes On Plantation Drive, TRS Men Thrash Her With Sticks -- VIDEO
- I Represent 'Inclusive India', Says Nusrat Jahan On Fatwa Over Her Attire
- Dangal Actor Zaira Wasim Quits Bollywood, Says It Was Leading Her To 'Path Of Ignorance'
- WATCH: Patient Dragged On Bedsheet To X-Ray Room In MP's Jabalpur, Three Suspended
- Movie Review: Article 15 Can Help Detox Those Hit By Kabir Singh’s Toxic Masculinity