On the eve of the elections to the National Congress in Libya, the top United Nations envoy to the country today urged all voters "to exercise their hard-earned democratic right."
"I call on every group and individual to refrain from violence or any actions that may intimidate voters from exercising this right, and to ensure that the election is conducted with the highest standards of mutual respect," the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), Ian Martin, said in a news release.
Mr. Martin congratulated the Libyan people on this "historic milestone" in their country's transition towards a new democratic State, "for which they sacrificed so much."
Some 2.7 million people in the North African nation have registered to vote for members of the new National Congress, which will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Libya. More than 3,000 candidates are competing for office, including more than 600 women.
In his message, Mr. Martin also hailed Libya's High National Election Commission for its "tremendous efforts" in establishing the election machinery, organizing voter registration and preparing for the poll; and strongly condemned an attack today on a Libyan air force helicopter transporting polling material, which led to the death of one person.
"This election will provide the basis for a first government bestowed with the legitimacy of the Libyan people to address their collective aspirations for the future," the envoy said, warning that "great challenges lie ahead."
"I hope that the National Congress elected tomorrow will bring about a constitution-making process and a Government that are truly inclusive of all Libyans from all regions and communities," Mr. Martin added.
Yesterday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released a video message in which he also warned that "the road to democracy is long and hard" and reaffirmed the support of the United Nations.
The polls, which were originally slated to be held in late June, will be the first free elections in decades in Libya, where Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising last year - similar to the protests in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa - led to civil war and the end of his regime.