Flag of Libya’s National Transitional Council at the United Nations in Vienna. Oct ‘2011. Photo: UNIS Vienna

The United Nations mission in Libya today welcomed the announcement by the country?s electoral authorities of the start date for the registration of voters and candidates for the upcoming polls to choose members of the National Congress.

Voter registration is a ?very important step? in the election process,? the UN Support Mission for Libya (UNSMIL) said in a statement. ?UNSMIL encourages all Libyans to exercise their democratic rights and actively participate in the elections by going to registration centres to register.?

Libya?s High National Election Commission (HNEC) announced today that voter registration as well as the registration of candidates/entities will begin on 1 May.

The mission congratulated the HNEC for its accomplishments within such a short period of time and its determination to move the process forward.

The election for members of the National Congress, due to be held by late June, will be the first free elections in the North African country in four decades. The National Congress will be tasked with drafting a new constitution for Libya, where Muammar al-Qadhafi ruled for more than 40 years until a pro-democracy uprising last year led to civil war and the deposing of his regime.

UNSMIL noted that the upcoming election is a ?Libyan-led process,? and that it remains committed to assist and support national efforts in this process.

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