x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Libya counts the votes cast by its expatriates in Dubai

Voting ends in Gulf region for Libyan expatriates.

DUBAI // The task of counting hundreds of votes from expatriate Libyans begins tonight.

Over five days, hundreds of Libyans living in the UAE and across the Arabian Gulf region visited the consulate in Bur Dubai to cast their vote in their homeland's congressional elections.

After closing the polls at 6pm, embassy officials spent the evening counting ballots.

Majda Annaihum, the national adviser for organising voting in Dubai, said the results for the Gulf leg of the poll would be announced by authorities in Tripoli, possibly as early as tomorrow morning.

On the final day of voting, there was a celebratory atmosphere in the polling station.

"I never thought this day would come," said Ali Salah, 26, who lives in Dubai. "It was so difficult a year ago and it was hard to imagine one day we would be able to vote."

The election is the first after 42 years of autocratic rule by Muammar Qaddafi.

Islam Saleh, 24, volunteered at the embassy to help guide people through the process.

"I did this because this is a very historic moment for Libyans," Mr Saleh said.

"This has meant new hope for our country's future."

There are other overseas polling stations in Canada, Germany, Jordan, the UK and the US.

The station in Dubai is the only one in the Arabian Gulf region, and Libyans living in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia turned up to vote.

"The busiest day was on Friday," said Mahmoud Abu Jaafar Khalifa, manager of the polling centre. "Everyone was really enthusiastic and excited to vote."

He said around 800 people had registered in advance to vote, but there had been around 1,200 votes in total. However, he said he did not have specific figures.

There are fewer than 2,000 Libyans living in the UAE, but many have travelled to their homeland to vote directly.

"There are not many people left in the country," Mr Khalifa said.

All voters were required to stain their right index finger in ink to show they had voted.

Ms Annaihum said she had voted on the first day after the polls opened. She said the stain, which lasts for around five days, was a mark of pride for her.

"It gives me a good feeling when I look at it," she said.

A total of 2,501 candidates from 142 political parties are standing in the election.