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Libyans Flock To Vote, Amid Reports Of Sabotage

A Libyan woman raises her ink-stained finger after voting for Libya's General National Assembly at a polling station in Tripoli on July 7.
Libyans are voting for parliament as the country holds its first free vote in 60 years.

In the capital, Tripoli, residents turned out in droves to cast votes for the 200-seat legislature.

Many voters expressed joy at finally being able to exercise power at the ballot box.

"I feel like a groom today. It is a 'wedding' for democracy today," Tripoli voter Mohammed al-Bezanti told Reuters.

"It is the first time that we will choose who will govern us and the people feel fine about it, praise to you Lord."

Others were more circumspect, saying they hoped those elected would truly serve the country.

"We are only interested in people who will serve the country. We are voting for them with the intention of giving them a responsibility," Tripoli voter Thuraya al-Kanoni said.

"We do not know them in person but we give them our trust."

The voters are choosing among parties ranging from Islamist to secular, with a total of some 3,700 candidates competing.

Turmoil In East

The election has been marred by some violence and calls to boycott the vote.

Election Commission Chairman Nuri al-Abbar said that 94 percent of polling stations opened for the election but that acts of sabotage, mostly in the east of the country, prevented 101 stations from taking part.

The eastern region around the city of Benghazi complains of neglect by the interim government in Tripoli in the west.

Hundreds protested on July 6 in Benghazi over the fact the east of Libya had been allotted only 60 seats in the assembly compared to 102 for the west.

Gunmen shot down a helicopter carrying voting materials near Benghazi on July 6, killing one Election Commission worker.

The vote is a key milestone in Libya's nine-month transition toward democracy after a civil war ended former leader Muammar Qaddafi's four-decade rule.

The country has suffered a virtual collapse in authority that leaves major challenges. Armed militias still operate independently, and deepening regional and tribal divisions frequently erupt into violence.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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