Nine months ago, Libyans were celebrating in this square in central Tripoli. They renamed it “Martyrs' Square” in memory of the fighters who died in the revolution that ended 42 years of rule by Moammar Gadhafi.
Today this square is busy with traffic and decorated with campaign posters for Saturday’s election.
Tripoli cafes are buzzing about the election. Student Amin Siyala is home for the summer from school in Britain:
“Stuff has, hasn’t become suddenly a lot better. That's, that’s just truth right now. But obviously we know we will get better because there still needs to be time for the elections to happen and for the new government to come to bring change.”
Not far away at a more traditional cafe next to a Roman ruin , several older men also want to talk politics. Mohammed al-Hadi bin-Noba says many Libyans don’t really understand what they are voting for. But he says in a way that doesn’t matter:
“The election is of secondary importance, compared with the blood that has been spilled to make the revolution a success.”
There are still concerns about security amid tribe clashes, fighting among militias formed for the revolution and regional disputes about power sharing.
An Amnesty International Report this week says those problems must be brought under control.
“We have the general elections…”
British Analyst Anthony Skinner at the MapleCraft Risk Assessment Firm shares the concern. But he told VOA via Skype the overall trajectory in Libya is positive.
“As we see, Libya is progressive down the road of cohabitation. It’s inevitable that its various groups will want to ensure that their interests are protective and they will continue to jockey for power. And unfortunately, because of the level of armament and because various militias have not been absorbed into the, the military, this will translate into further gun battles, I expect.”
But the problems are far from the minds of this family having a day out in Tripoli. Doctor Mohammed Reda Mangoos and her wife Naima Al-Taher are excited about the vote and the doctor remembers Libya’s last free election in 1952.
“The day, I was about 6 years old. I still remember like a dream. There was voting in my, in my county, in my city. I still remember like a dream. Now we are proud to see this again.”
There are more than 140 parties and small factions campaigning for the election and hundreds of independent candidates. Islamists are expected to do well as is a secular group of officials who were involved in last year’s transition.
But Libyans from all walks of life say the country will plot a moderate course regardless who is elected.