The day after Libyans streamed to the polls, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised the North African nation for holding its first national election in decades.
"After more than four decades of authoritarian rule, men and women from every corner of Libya are determining their own future,” said Clinton.
Speaking with reporters Sunday in Japan, Clinton labeled the election “a historic milestone,” which she emphasized had been held at “the will of the people, not the whim of the dictator.”
She added that the United States stood ready to help Libya become a free and peaceful democracy, noting that there is “hard work ahead” for Libyans to unify the country.
Since the ouster and subsequent brutal murder in captivity of former dictator Muammar Qaddafi, infighting among the rebel groups who carried out the revolution has marred the ability of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) government to rule the nation.
The outgoing NTC said on Thursday that Islamic Shari'a law should be the “main” source of legislation and that this should not be subject to a referendum.
“The Libyan people are attached to Islam, as a religion and legislation,” NTC spokesman Saleh Darhoub said, according to the AFP news agency. “As such the National Transitional Council recommends that the (next) Congress make Shari'a the main source of legislation,” he added, “and this should not be subject to a referendum.”
During the voting that took place on Saturday, armed gangs stormed polling stations in Benghazi, Guba and Suluq. Benghazi was the launching place of the revolution against Qaddafi on February 17, 2011; former rebels there told a Reuters reporter they feel as if “no one in the government is listening to us.”
The last election in Libya took place in 1964, under then-King Idris al-Senussi. He was deposed at gunpoint in a 1969 bloodless coup by Col. Muammar Qaddafi, who ruled for the next 42 years.
Among the candidates in the current race are members of the Muslim Brotherhood's Justice and Development party, and former Interim Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril, a moderate who resigned his post in October 2011.
The results of the election are not expected to be known for several days.