Libya Elections
Libyan children wave the Kingdom of Libya flags from a car during the National Assembly election in Benghazi. Reuters

Libyans turned out in huge numbers Saturday to vote in the first free and democratic elections held in 60 years.

Voters, including women, came out in large numbers to reshape the country's future despite incidents of violence in some polling stations in the east of the country.

Early statistics show nearly 60 percent voter turnout, according to officials.

Counting began immediately after the close of polling on Saturday and preliminary results are expected on early Sunday.

After the close of polls, jubilant Libyans flocked Tripoli's Martyr's Square in celebration of the first free election after the fall of the dictator Col. Muammar Gaddafi.

Fireworks lit up the night sky in Tripoli as the cheering crowd continued to sing and wave flags in celebration.

"Allahu akbar, this is the freedom era - for the first time Sirte is free," Reuters quoted a local woman as saying as she celebrated the free election in the late dictator's hometown.

Sirte was the scene of one of the worst incidents of fighting during the Nato-backed uprising against Gaddafi's rule in 2011.

Nearly 100 parties contested the election for the 200-member assembly but the chief winner was expected to be the Justice and Construction Party, comprising mostly Muslim Brotherhood members.

Violence marred voting in several locations in east Libya such as Ras Lanouf, Brega and Ajdabiya and one person was killed in shooting near Ajdabiya.

Oil-rich east Libya was concerned that the region would be underrepresented in the new assembly as it was under Gaddafi rule. The region has been allotted 60 seats in the 200-seat assembly whereas the west and the south have been given 100 and 40 seats respectively.

World leaders congratulated Libyans on their new democratic step towards the future.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the election was a milestone in the country's political transition.

"On behalf of the American people, I extend my congratulations to the people of Libya for another milestone on their extraordinary transition to democracy," said Obama.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague hailed the Libyan elections as a "historic step".

"Today is a landmark moment - for the first time in over 42 years Libyans have exercised their democratic right to choose their leaders and have taken a historic step towards freedom and accountability," the BBC quoted Hague as saying.

"I congratulate the Libyan authorities for their rapid preparations, supported by the United Nations support mission in Libya, to organise these elections in such a short space of time," he added.