DUBAI // In a tent serving as a polling station at the Libyan consulate yesterday, voters cheered as others cast ballots on the first day of overseas voting for the parliamentary elections.
"We are proud today," said SG, from Dubai. "This is the first free elections we have had."
Pinned to the wall of the tent was a list of the 2,639 candidates and 374 political parties. Voters were supposed to cast ballots for those representing their home districts only, but the high number of candidates left many puzzled.
"To be honest, with the party, I voted for the one with the best name, just randomly," said Hameeda Ibrahim, from Dubai. "There are so many."
Ms Ibrahim said she felt she had to take part in Libya's first fully democratic elections.
Najwa Mohamed, 76, who walked to the tent with the support of her son, said she wanted to be one of the first to vote.
Majda Annaihum, the national adviser for organising voting in Dubai and a member of the International Organisation for Migration, said a number of people called on Monday to ask how to vote.
"We advised them to do their own work, to search online and on social networks," Ms Annaihum said.
But others came prepared.
"I voted for the justice party, the Muslim Brotherhood party, because of their agenda and organisation," said BM, one of the first to vote.
He said the Egyptian situation, where the Muslim Brotherhood held most of the seats in the dissolved parliament, was not the reason he voted for the party.
But he said it was a "push and gave them credibility".
BM stressed the importance of the Libyan National General Congress, which will be in charge of writing a constitution.
"We want stability. This congress is important to ensure a political system," he said, adding he was waiting for that to happen so he and others could return to Libya.
BG, who has lived in Dubai for seven years, said he voted for the National Coalition Party.
"They are moderate in thinking," he said. "Right now there is not a lot of information about them. We made our judgment based on assumption and hope."
Lubna Hassan, a law student from Dubai, said she voted for a lawyer.
"I am so excited about the voting, I couldn't wait another day to come here," Ms Hassan said. "Everyone has hope. The situation in Libya right now is a bit rough but it's still a transitional period."
She said the incident in which rebels stormed a Benghazi polling station and set fire to official documents was a challenge that Libyans would overcome.
"Libyans have faced a lot of challenges," Ms Hassan said.
Dr Aref Nayed, the Libyan ambassador to the UAE since August last year, said the attack on the polling station provoked a strong backlash.
"Thousands came out the next day to show how they were against what happened," he said. "Whenever something goes wrong, people fix it."
RM from Dubai agreed.
"Unfortunately, people are using the wrong method of displaying their anger and emotions," he said. "They should display it but in a peaceful way."
Ms Annaihum called on more Libyans to vote, and said they could register at the consulate. More voters are expected on the weekend, with some coming from Qatar and Bahrain.
Voting is to continue until Saturday, from 9am until 6pm daily. Voting in Libya itself is to be held on Saturday.
An estimated 2,000 Libyans live in the UAE.