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EU Hails Libya Elections As Beginning Of New Era Of Democracy
345 days ago
(RTTNews) - The European Union on Sunday hailed Libya's first-ever free elections held a day earlier as the beginning of a new era of democracy in the North African nation, and pledged its continued support for the country's political transition process.
The "truly historic elections for the Libyan National Congress should mark the beginning of a new era of democracy in Libya," EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton and Stefan Fule,Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, said in a joint statement.
"In a climate of freedom, in spite of reports of isolated incidents of violence, Libyan citizens cast their votes today and have decided their future in a dignified and orderly manner," they said, noting that EU Electoral Assessment Team will soon announce its assessment of the polls soon.
The EU leaders also congratulated and paid tribute to the Libyan people and their peaceful struggle for their rights and democratic aspirations, and stressed that the European bloc is determined to strengthen its engagement with Libya.
Describing Libya as a key neighbor for Europe with whom the 27-member EU bloc wish to establish long-term and mutually beneficial relations, they said: "We will continue to provide strong support for Libya in the interests of securing a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future for its people."
The joint statement came hours after polling stations in Libya officially closed, marking the end of the first free national elections to take place in the oil-rich country since 1965. Results from the elections, which were marred by regional violence in the east, are expected to be announced by Monday.
Around 2.8 million people were registered to vote in the historic elections which most Libyans consider as their chance to truly put the 42-year rule of dictator Moammar Qadhafi behind them. The autocratic Qadhafi regime was ousted in a NATO-backed armed rebellion in August 2011. Qadhafi, who ruled Libya for 42 years with an iron fist, was subsequently shot dead on October 20 by revolutionary fighters on the outskirts of his hometown Sirte.
Saturday's elections were for electing a 200-member Constitutional Assembly, which will oversee the drafting of a new Constitution and form a government. More than 3,000 candidates, including over 600 women, were in the fray.
However, many polling stations in the country's restive east did not open or ceased operating after attacks by pro-autonomy groups. In the city of Benghazi, the epicenter of the Libyan uprising, militant groups attacked polling stations, burning ballots and ransacking offices. Similar violence was reported from Ajdabiya, Brega and Ras Lanouf.
Analysts say the violence is due to dissatisfaction in eastern Libya with the composition of the new National Assembly. The Tripoli-based NTC allotted only 60 seats to candidates from the oil-rich east, compared with 102 for the west and sparsely populated south.
Some eastern Libyans even recently formed an interim regional council, espousing pro-autonomy ideologies and calling for a federalist state. And in violence in Benghazi on Friday, a U.N. election commission member was killed in gunfire attack on a U.N. helicopter.
Notably, Libya's governing National Transitional Council (NTC) is still struggling to enforce its authority in the country and has so far failed to contain the violence unleashed by the revolutionary brigades that helped depose the Qadhafi regime. Most of Libya has been under the control of several armed militia groups since the fall of Qadhafi.
Violent clashes still break out between the rival militias, mostly in capital Tripoli. Their continued presence in Libya even after the civil war has raised concerns about the possible outbreak of further violence in the country.
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