Libya: Ban Congratulates Libyan People on First Free Elections in Almost Five Decades

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has congratulated the Libyan people for the national election which took place on Saturday - the country's first free poll in almost half a century.

"Last year, thousands of Libyans sacrificed their lives or suffered lasting injury in order to win the right of the Libyan people to build a new state founded on human dignity and the rule of law," Mr. Ban's spokesperson added in a statement issued late Sunday.

"Yesterday, their determination was again on display as men and women, young and old, cast their ballots, many with deep emotion, even in some areas where they faced threats to their security," the spokesperson said.

Some 2.7 million people in the North African nation 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 ran for office, including more than 600 women.

Mr. Ban hailed Libya's High national Election Commission and the thousands of electoral staff "who ensured well-conducted and transparent polling. He looks forward to the successful completion of the Libyan-managed electoral process, which the United Nations has been pleased to support," the statement read.

The polls, which were originally slated to be held in late June, were 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.

The spokesperson said that the UN chief also expressed his appreciation to the candidates and political groups that contested the election in a peaceful and democratic spirit, stressing that the UN looks forward to working with the country's new leaders as they address the challenges of drafting a constitution and building a secure and accountable state.

"The Secretary-General trusts that they will do so in a spirit of inclusion, justice and reconciliation among all Libyans," the statement said.

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