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Libya holds first local elections since Qaddafi's ouster

Benghazi vote celebrates the country's newly-found freedom.

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The new Libyan flag flutters near the bronze falcon that once decorated the Bab al-Aziziya compound of slain Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. (JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Libyans went to the polls in the city of Benghazi on Saturday in a historic vote marking the city's first elections in nearly a half-century, reported BBC News

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Local elections in Benghazi, where protests against the rule of longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi first broke out last year, were last held in 1969, said Al Jazeera.

Some 400 candidates were vying for 44 seats in the local council, a body whose power and function has yet to be clearly defined, said BBC. Turnout was reportedly high. 

National elections are to be held in June, said BBC.

Voter Manaa Fatah, told Al Jazeera that he last cast his vote in 1969, when the country was under a monarchy. ''I'm very happy ... this is freedom,'' said the 82-year-old Benghazi resident. 

Some representatives running are sympathetic to an independence movement called the Cyrenaica Congress, which has denounced the national election and called for autonomy for the country's eastern province, an area that includes Benghazi. 

The issue is seen as a litmus test for the country's political stability following the the ousting of Qaddafi by popular protest. 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120519/libya-holds-first-local-elections-qaddafis-ouster