After almost a decade, the son of Libya’s late dictator Muammar Gaddafi stood before the public for the first time on Sunday to register as a presidential contender for a December election that is expected to help bring the country’s years of upheaval to an end.
A video released by the electoral commission showed Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, 49, signing paperwork at the polling center in the southern town of Sebha while dressed in a traditional brown robe and hat, as well as a grey beard and spectacles.
General Muammar Gaddafi is anticipated to run for president of Libya, along with other famous and controversial personalities such as eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, prime minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.
Even though his name is one of the most well-known in Libya, and while he used to play a significant role in policy formulation before to the 2011 NATO-backed revolt that brought down his family’s dictatorship, the former prime minister has been virtually absent from the country for the last 10 years.
In addition, his official admission into an election whose rules are still being challenged by Libya’s feuding factions may raise additional issues about the legitimacy of a campaign that includes candidates who are considered unpalatable in certain parts of the country.
While the majority of Libyan groups and international countries publicly support elections on December 24, the outcome of those elections remains in question as different organizations disagree over the rules and timetable.
With fewer than six weeks before the election, a big meeting in Paris on Friday decided to penalise anybody who disrupts or prevents the vote. However, there is still no consensus on the regulations that should regulate who should be allowed to run.
Gaddafi is expected to appeal to his supporters’ nostalgia for the period before the NATO-backed rebellion that ousted his father from office and usher in more than a decade of conflict, observers think he is unlikely to emerge as the clear front-runner.
In many Libyans’ minds, the Gaddafi period was one of brutal despotism, and since Saif al-Islam and other former regime officials have been out of power for so long, they may find it difficult to mobilize the same level of support as their key challengers.
During an operation near his hometown of Sirte in October 2011, opposition forces seized and executed Muammar al-Gaddafi. When Saif al-Islam attempted to depart Libya for Niger, he was apprehended a few days later by rebels from the rugged Zintan area.
Saif al-Islam has become something of a cipher for Libyans a little more than a decade after he was captured. In order to protect him from the public eye, the Zintan warriors kept him hidden for years, and it is unclear what he thinks about the problem.
Though he granted an interview to the New York Times earlier this year, the former president of the United States has not yet made any public appearances in front of the Libyan people.
Making his presidential aspirations even more complicated, Gaddafi was tried and sentenced to death for war crimes committed during the 2011 revolt by a Tripoli court in which he appeared through a videolink from Zintan in 2015. The trial was conducted in absentia, with Gaddafi appearing via videolink from Zintan, and the verdict was delivered in absentia.
If he appeared in public in Tripoli, he would very certainly be arrested or suffer other hazards. He is also sought by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his crimes against humanity.
Saif al-Islam, a graduate of the London School of Economics and a proficient English speaker, was formerly considered by many nations to be the acceptable, Western-friendly face of Libya, as well as a potential heir apparent.
In 2011, however, when an uprising against Muammar Gaddafi’s long-standing leadership erupted, Saif al-Islam instantly chose family and clan loyalty above his numerous acquaintances in the West, telling Reuters television: “We fight here in Libya, and we die here in Libya.”