But attacks on polling centres in the east — where anger over perceived domination by rivals in the west is fuelling a drive for autonomy — laid bare the rifts threatening to tear the nation apart.
Still the election for a 200-seat parliament, which will be tasked with forming a new government, was the latest milestone in a revolution stemming from the Arab Spring revolts that led to the successful ouster of authoritarian leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and later Yemen.
Nearly 2.9 million Libyans, or 80 per cent of Libyans eligible to vote, have registered for the election and more than 3,000 candidates have plastered the country with posters and billboards. Electoral officials said turnout was 60 per cent and counting of the ballots had begun.
As they did in Egypt and Tunisia, Islamists also hope to rise to power in Libya where they were long repressed under Gadhafi’s secular rule. That would leave conservative religious parties with influence over a large and uninterrupted chunk of territory that stretches from Israel’s southern border in Egypt to Tunisia.
One of the main contenders in the race was the Muslim Brotherhood’s Justice and Construction party, which has led one of the best organized and most visible campaigns.
Three other parties also expected to perform well were former Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril’s secular Alliance of National Forces; former rebel commander Abdel-Hakim Belhaj’s Al-Watan; and the National Front, one of Libya’s oldest political groups.
The election lines brought together men, women and children accompanying their parents.
Darul Ihsan Media Desk