Libyans went to the polls in the country’s first nationwide election in nearly five decades. An estimated 1.7 million Libyans cast votes for the 200-seat General National Congress, which will name Libya’s new prime minister and cabinet, as well as draft a constitution. Final results have yet to be announced.
President Barack Obama congratulated the people of Libya “for another milestone on their extraordinary transition to democracy. After more than 40 years in which Libya was in the grip of a dictator,” this “historic election underscores that the future of Libya is in the hands of the Libyan people.” Across Libya, said President Obama, “voters turned out to exercise their hard-earned freedoms, most participating in an election for the first time in their lives.”
“The United States,” said President Obama, “is proud of the role we played in supporting the Libyan revolution and protecting the Libyan people, and we look forward to working closely with the new Libya – including the elected Congress and Libya’s new leaders.”
These parliamentary elections came 17 months after political demonstrations against dictator Moammar Gadhafi broke out in two Libyan cities. These demonstrations spread, leading to an armed conflict. Ultimately, NATO airstrikes helped turn the tide and rebel forces were able to vanquish Gadhafi’s forces.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that after Gadhafi’s long rule, “men and women from every corner of Libya are beginning to determine their own future. And it will be the will of the people, not the whim of a dictator.” The vote, said Secretary Clinton, was a “historic milestone,” but hard work lies ahead in building “an effective, transparent government that unifies the country and delivers for the Libyan people.”
“The United States,” said Secretary Clinton, “stands ready to assist Libyans in their transition to a free, democratic Libya at peace with your neighbors and where every Libyan has a chance to fulfill his or her God-given potential.”