By Ben Geman - 07/07/12 09:15 PM EDT
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is cheering Libya’s first national elections in decades, calling the event an "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," said the senator, who is observing the balloting in Tripoli, in a statement released late Saturday.
McCain said the election, which he called "not flawless" but nevertheless "free, fair and successful" was only the first step towards a stable democracy.
"One election does not make a democracy, but there can be no democracy without an election," he said. "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."
Throughout the day, McCain used a stream of Twitter messages to celebrate the elections that will create a 200-member General National Congress.
“How excited are Libyans to vote? I just saw a man stop traffic and breakdance in street while his friends waved flags and cheered him on!,” McCain tweeted earlier Saturday from Libya.
Other messages included a link to a photo of a man that McCain said was voting for the first time in his life, and updates on the senator’s meetings with officials including current Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib and another official with the governing National Transitional Council, which is overseeing the transition to the new legislature.
“The people of Libya are excited and enthusiastic to vote today,” tweeted McCain, who is the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The elections for a national assembly, which will appoint a new prime minister, follow the NATO-backed uprising that outsted Col. Moammar Qaddafi last year after more than four decades of rule.
They mark the first national vote since the mid-1960s and the first in which political parties were allowed since 1952.
News reports indicate some violence but that the polling was generally able to proceed.
The New York Times, reporting from Libya, noted that violent protests forced the closure of several polling stations in the eastern part of the country and that at least one man was killed in election-related violence.
But the Times account states that “orderly voting in much of the country surprised even the voters themselves.”
Libyan authorities said that 98 percent of polling centers had opened at some point during the day for the election of the new assembly, according to Reuters.
Meghashyam Mali contributed.
This story was updated at 5:45 p.m.