Montag, 9. Juli 2012

Voting in Gharyan, Libya Part I

During a day where temperatures were supposed to reach 43°, one does not want to move around too much. Too bad it is election day in Libya. Well, luckily not for me, so I thought of staying at home, trying to get temperatures of below 30° inside my house.
But then a journalist, Astrid Frevel, had the idea of going to Gharyan, a city approx.60 km south of Tripoli, on the entrance to the "Western Mountain" region. She was registered as a journalist during the elections and wanted to make use of her possibility to sneak around. Due to the fact that Austrian health group VAMED has a hospital project in Gharyan (this will be subject to an own blog entry) I decided to accompany Ms.Frevel on this historic day for Libya.

After a hospital tour, we went around lunchtime to the polling station, which was situated in one of Gharyan´s schools. Some small queues at the entrance, but volunteers made sure everything was done in an organized way. First the voters had to show their voter registration card, they were then registered again and in the next step shown and explained the ballot paper. Quite a challenge to vote: Over 4.000 individual candidates and close to 200 parties.

After voters made their cross, they had to put their finger in a pot with non-removable ink and were only then allowed to put their vote into the sealed ballot box. And believe me, everybody had a smile on his face when he dropped the vote in the box. As I had my camera with me, those who saw it, immediately asked to be taken a picture. "Sura, Sura" they said (Picture please!). And now police, security or secret service agents who looked or asked suspiciously why I was taking photos, or who (like in the past) controlled the photos I had taken.

A father came with his three kids, showed and explained them what was going on and then told me that his sons have to learn. Because from now on they will do this for the rest of their life.
Carried away by so many positive impressions I tweeted "Never in my 5 years in Libya have I seen so many happy, relaxed and cheerful persons. Even the police at polling stations are laughing". So far it got retweeted 100 times, as I guess that many Libyans felt this way. It was indeed a striking feeling. Old, young, male, female, conservatives, liberals - at the polling station they were all the same: They joked with each other, showed respect and, all of them felt sooooo proud. I got several times asked "What do you think of our elections ?" or "You see, nobody believed we could do it, and now we throw our vote in the ballot box".
My impression was that many Libyans did not believe themselves that on this July 7 they could mark a party / person they wanted. As one Libyan voter put it "This is our reward for the revolution. We paid a high price and we deserve this day."

Quite moving was also this 94 year old lady, accompanied by her daughter.
She also had an ink-marked right index finger. (to be continued in Part II...)


  1. Hi,

    What is it being an expat in Tripoli like? Are you still an expat in Tripoli? Is it safe?


  2. Yes, I am still an Expat there - it is reasonably safe and one can move freely. However, at night many recommend not to go out too much.
    Life is still a bit dry - some social activities need to come up.
    For general impressions, see my other blog entries or follow me on Twitter @david_bachmann_