Arab Spring activists observing Poland's election

By the Associated Press | October 7, 2011 | 7:35 AM EDT

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Arab Spring activists from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya — in Poland to watch and learn from parliamentary elections here — say free ballots in their own nations will be milestones in turing hard-won freedom into lasting democracy.

A group of fifteen activists and election officials — five from each country — met Friday with two deputy foreign ministers, Krzysztof Stanowski and Jerzy Pomianowski, and held a meeting with the members and judges of the State Electoral Commission.

Following this year's wave of Arab Spring revolutions, the first free elections in decades are to be held in Tunisia on Oct. 23 and in Egypt at the end of November. No elections are yet scheduled in Libya, where dictator Moammar Gadhafi fled in August.

Heads of the Egyptian and Tunisian delegations told reporters they will make every effort to ensure that the historic elections are held according to the best standards of democracy.

"We will take every effort to make sure that one of the key slogans of the revolution, free elections, is achieved," said Abdel Moez, head of Egypt's Electoral Commission.

A leader of the Libyan delegation, former political prisoner Muhammad Abunnaja, said Libya will "certainly not go back to a dictatorship or tyranny" and when time comes for free elections, a "democratic formula will be found to make sure that all social groups are represented."

But all agreed that the greatest challenge would be to persuade the people to take part in the vote, after decades of rigged elections under dictatorships.

On Sunday, the group will visit polling stations in Warsaw, Plock and Radom to observe the voting and counting of ballots.

Poland's Foreign Ministry said Poland wants to share its experience in holding transparent and democratic elections ever since it overthrew its own authoritarian system 22 years ago.