OTTAWA - Ottawa noted the "emotion and significance" of Libya's first free national election in decades on Saturday, voicing Canada's support for the country's democratic future.
The voting in the North African country came less than a year after the toppling of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi by rebel fighters, who were aided by NATO air forces, including fighter jets from Canada
A spokesman for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Canada "stands with the Libyan people" as they work to entrench the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law for all in the country.
"We are inspired by all who, after battling tyranny and believing a better, brighter future was indeed possible, today turned out to cast a ballot and have a say in who should lead the country forward," Rick Roth said in a statement.
Libyans voted to elect a 200-member assembly whose first task will be naming a new government.
But despite the most visible step toward democracy in the country since Gadhafi's death last October, violence and protests during the election were a reminder of the challenges that lie ahead — challenges which Canada acknowledged.
There were attacks on polling stations in the eastern part of the country, where some Libyans are angry over what they see as domination by their rivals from western Libya. One person was killed and two were wounded in the region.
Nonetheless, Canadian Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, who was in Libya observing the elections, said the majority of residents in the oil-rich country seemed jubilant while casting their ballots.
"This is not an election – this is a liberation party. Everyone is joyful, proud, happy and excited," he said in an email.
"The Libyans have gone out of their way to be friendly and accommodating, transparent and open."
Nearly 2.9 million Libyans, or 80 per cent of Libyans eligible to vote, registered for the election and more than 3,000 candidates plastered the country with posters and billboards. Electoral officials said turnout was 60 per cent and counting of the ballots had begun.
The last parliamentary election in Libya was in 1964, five years before Gadhafi's military coup that toppled the country's monarchy. Gadhafi's 42-year-rule ended when he was killed after months of bitter civil war.
Interim leaders who took over after his death have largely failed to rein in armed militias and provide security while deepening regional and tribal disputes erupted into bloodshed with alarming frequency.
The new parliament being voted in is itself temporary, tasked with forming a new government that will take over until a new constitution is drafted so new elections can be held next year.
— with files from the Associated Press
A Libyan woman dips her finger in ink after casting her vote in a polling center in the Old City of Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. Jubilant Libyan voters marked a major step toward democracy after decades of erratic one-man rule, casting their ballots Saturday in the first parliamentary election after last year's overthrow and killing of longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi. But the joy was tempered by boycott calls, the burning of ballots and other violence in the country's restive east. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Libyan men look for their names on a voters list at a polling station in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
A Libyan woman votes at a polling center in the Old City of Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Libyan voters line up at a polling station in Benghazi, Libya Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
A Libya man chants revolutionary slogans while celebrating on election day in Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
A Libyan woman holds a framed photograph of a person killed during the uprising while celebrating on election day in Martyrs' Square in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
A Libyan man holds up his voter ID card at a polling station in Benghazi, Libya Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Ibrahim Alaguri)
An election official shows a man how to fill out a ballot at a polling station in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
A Libyan woman votes at a polling station in the old city of Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)
Libyan men hold their elections ID cards while celebrating election day in Tripoli, Libya, Saturday, July 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Manu Brabo)