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McCain: Libya's journey to democracy an inspiration

U.S. Sen. John McCain released the following statement from Tripoli, Libya, on the elections Saturday in that North African nation:   

This is a historic day for the people of Libya. After 42 years of darkness and cruelty under Qaddafi, and after nine months of brutal fighting and sacrifice to liberate their great nation, Libyans have now elected their own leaders and continued to determine their own destiny. I was honored and moved to witness this remarkable achievement by the Libyan people.

I met today with the prime minister, members of the National Transitional Council, domestic and international election observers, and the head of the High National Elections Commission, who confirmed that 94 percent of polling places in Libya were opened as planned today. I visited several of them, where I met with dozens of Libyan voters, most of whom were casting the first ballots of their lives. These Libyan citizens, as well as the many other people I met today, were enthusiastic and optimistic about this important step on Libya's democratic journey.

To be sure, this election was not flawless. Many Libyans were unable to vote at roughly one hundred polling places that failed to open or were prevented from doing so. There have been credible reports of localized incidents of violence and disruptions to the vote in some places by small groups of criminals that were determined to spoil this momentous occasion for Libya. Tragically, a Libyan employee of the national election commission was killed performing his duty on behalf of his country. These setbacks were unfortunate, but they were limited, and they do not take away from the fact that today's vote in Libya was generally free, fair, and successful.

Today marks the end of the beginning for Libya's transition to democracy. One election does not make a democracy, but there can be no democracy without an election. The Libyan people have taken an enormous step today toward the ideals of freedom, justice, and equal rights that first inspired their revolution last year. There will be difficult struggles and challenging days ahead for Libya, and there will surely be more setbacks and stumbles along the way. But that is the case for every nation that embraces the challenge of building the institutions of a free and just society.

The Libyan people will not be alone in their democratic journey. The United States and our allies will continue to stand with them. We will work with the newly elected leaders of a free Libya. And upon the request of the Libyan people, we will provide whatever support and assistance we can, in a spirit of mutual respect, common purpose, and shared values.

The Libyan revolution inspired us all last year. Libya's election has inspired us again today. And I am confident that Libya's journey to democracy will continue to inspire the entire world.

John McCain is a Republican Senator from Arizona.

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