By Hadi Fornaji
Tripoli, 3 July:
Libyans living abroad have started voting in embassies and consulates in six countries, Canada, Dubai, Germany, Jordan, the UK and the USA, where voting booths will remain open for five days up to the 7 July election here.
There is no clear idea of how many expatriate Libyans there are, but the figure could be as high as one million. Apart from an abandoned effort in the United States last month to register voters online, there has been no advance registration process. Would-be voters must turn up at a diplomatic mission and prove their identity before being approved to take a ballot paper and make their choice, which will be for a candidate in the town where they last lived in the country.
This procedure is likely to take some time. Therefore if missions are overwhelmed with people wanting to vote, long waits seem certain and five days may well be necessary to deal with the demand. There is anger however that in the United States, citizens will only apparently be able to vote at the Libyan consulate in Washington, after the June online registration scheme was abandoned, for reasons which the foreign ministry has not yet explained.
The very first vote in the election was cast today in Dubai, by electors from the 3,000-strong Libyan community in the UAE. People were ushered through an air-conditioned tent in the consulate grounds, to go through the lengthy procedure of having their identity and Libyan home town checked, before being issued with a ballot paper.
The retiring Libyan ambassador to the UAE Aref al-Nayed told the Financial Times that the opening of voting filled him with a sense of “Sad joy: there is joy at reaching this stage in the long struggle of the Libyan people, but sadness from the great sacrifices of the people who made this possible.”