Sunday, May 20, 2012
Benghazi vote inspires hope for Libya
What I saw at the polling stations in Benghazi on Saturday was amazing: The spirit of the people, the happiness in their eyes, the smiles. Some had never voted in their lives. I even saw a blind man making the effort, helped out by Benghazi election committee workers at Tarik Ben Zyad school. Another voter was holding the hand of his elderly mother; both were smiling, you just sensed how happy they were after they dipped their fingers in the durable ink. An 82-year-old man named Manaa Fatah told me that the last time he voted was when Libya was a monarchy. That means 1969, when the late Colonel Muammer Gaddafi came to power. ''I'm very happy ... this is freedom,'' said Fatah. Queues of women voters were also a striking sight. Women made up 43 per cent of the 216,000 registered voters. They can choose 22 female candidates running for the local council's 41 seats. Some would say that's a small number, but perhaps things are beginning to change. I asked one woman why she voted. ''I want to take part in liberating Libya,'' she said. A man in his 50s who works for an oil company said: ''This is the least we can pay our martyrs. I voted for Benghazi. I voted for Libya.'' A man in his 20s said: ''I see these elections a step to our future.. it represents our ambitions.''