On Friday 24 December, Libya's election day will be marked by controversy. Just 10 days ago, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi, presented his candidacy for the Libyan presidential elections. Saif's entourage assured Al-Sharq that he "has the support of a wide range of political forces and has a programme aimed at the aspirations of Libya's youth". However, the Libyan electoral commission's decision may leave Gaddafi's intentions in tatters and, in the absence of the pending appeal, he will not be able to run as a candidate on the 24th of next month.
He is not the only one to have been rejected by the commission. Saif al-Islam is one of 25 candidates - out of a total of 98 who have submitted the required documentation - who, in principle, will be ineligible for the presidential election. However, the final decision will be in the hands of the judiciary, which has a case pending appeal. The danger posed by these disputes is a major threat to an internationally supported electoral process that has as its fundamental objective to put an end once and for all to years of instability and violence in the country.
The Libyan electoral commission's decision is based on the fact that Gaddafi has been convicted of a crime. In addition, a court in Tripoli sentenced the dictator's son to death in 2015 on charges of rebellion and war crimes during the uprising against his father Muammar in 2011. He also has an arrest warrant issued by the Libyan Prosecutor's Office for alleged links to Russian mercenaries. US media go further and accuse Moscow of trying to pressure Khalifa Haftar to form an alliance with Salif al-Islam to form, according to Bloomberg, an "unbeatable electoral alliance".
The list of candidates vetoed by the electoral commission includes prominent names such as former prime minister Ali Zeidan and former parliamentarian Nouri Abusahmain. Accusations of violations and crimes against each other are continuous and are causing an increase in tension around what should be a cause for celebration for Libyan society, such as the upcoming elections. For that date, the figure of Haftar seems crucial, although he is not without controversy.
Also accused of crimes and known for his involvement in Libya's civil war, Khalifa Haftar stands as one of the most important figures in Libyan politics. The ties linking him to Gaddafi are not just a Russian invention. Haftar gave protection to the dictator's son when he was handed over by the militia that sentenced him to death.
Gaddafi's failed candidacy can see some of its motivations at the international level. The spokesman for the International Criminal Court (ICC), Fadi Al-Abdullah, said just over a week ago that, despite the fact that he was running for election at the time, the arrest warrant was still valid: "We have followed the submission of documents by Saif al-Islam Qadhafi for his candidacy; however, we have no dealings in political matters. A warrant for his arrest is still in force.
Many fronts are open in a process that will be far from straightforward in the month that remains until that long-awaited election Friday. For the moment, Salif al-Islam could not be a candidate, and the International Criminal Court does not seem to favour a change in this decision. However, despite the ICC's words and the electoral commission's decision, Gaddafi has the appeal that is already in the hands of the courts, which will ultimately decide whether or not he can run for the Libyan presidency.