The son of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi has submitted the required documents to run as a candidate in the upcoming Libyan presidential elections scheduled for 24 December. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has chosen the southern Libyan town of Sabha to make his candidacy official. This Libyan town is the stronghold of the Arab-Berber Qadhadhfa tribe, which is linked to Gaddafi's family. The clan also played a major role during the revolution against King Idris I, a revolt led by the former Libyan leader.
The Libyan presidential hopeful turned up at the relevant Electoral Management Office with his lawyer, Khaled Al-Zaidi, wearing an outfit very reminiscent of the one his father used to wear. After signing the application papers, he recited a verse from the Koran and left the office saying "God bless you".
A Libyan source close to Gaddafi's son told Al-Sharq media that Saif al-Islam "has the support of a wide range of political forces and has a programme that addresses the aspirations of Libya's youth". However, Abdel Hakim Balkhair, a member of the Electoral Commission, told a Libyan channel that Saif al-Islam's application had "not yet been accepted". The names of the aspirants are expected to be announced two days after the deadline for submitting applications. That is, after 22 November it will be known who has been accepted to become Libya's prospective president. The Electoral Commission will have to examine and verify the documents and conditions of each candidate.
Gaddafi's son has several domestic and international prosecutions behind him. Last August, the Libyan Public Prosecutor's Office issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam for an alleged link to Russian mercenaries. This institution had already issued a similar warrant in October 2019. In this regard, it is worth noting that several US reports have accused Russia of supporting Saif al-Islam. According to Bloomberg, Moscow is reportedly pressuring Khalifa Haftar to form an "unbeatable electoral alliance". However, the military leader has opted to run alone.
US investigations also point to Egypt as a possible supporter of Saif al-Islam. According to Irina Zviagelskaya, a Russian Middle East expert, the Kremlin is reportedly working to bring "stability" to the North African country. "Gaddafi managed to maintain the cohesion of the country and avoid chaos and war, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq," she explains. This stability and security is necessary for trade with Libya to function, in particular the oil business.
Another sentence Saif al-Islam has faced was handed down in 2015, years after the revolution that killed his father. Then, a firing squad, through a court in Tripoli, sentenced him to death for "killing protesters during the Libyan uprising". The Libyan presidential candidate was captured by a rebel group after Gaddafi's assassination in Sirte but was eventually spared the death penalty because the militia handed him over to Khalifa Haftar, who gave him protection. Haftar was one of the men who helped Gaddafi overthrow King Idris I in 1969. He was later sentenced to prison for treason during the conflict with Chad. He spent several years in Chadian prisons until he went into exile in the 1990s in the United States, where, according to several analysts, he began collaborating with the CIA to overthrow Gaddafi.
With regard to international legal cases, Saif al-Islam has an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court (ICC). Fadi Al-Abdullah, spokesman for the ICC, has assured that this warrant is still in force despite his candidacy. "We have been following Saif al-Islam Gaddafi's submission of documents for his candidacy; however, we have no dealings in political matters. A warrant for his arrest remains in force". He is accused by the ICC of crimes against humanity during the Libyan uprisings.
Rumours of Saif al-Islam's possible candidacy began after an interview with The New York Times last July. After years of being unaccounted for, Gaddafi's son presented himself as "the saviour of the country" and called for a fight to "revive the lost unity". Al-Islam Gaddafi said Libyan politicians "have only brought misery". "It is time to go back to the past, the country is on its knees, there is no money, there is no security, there is no life here," he said.
Gaddafi's son will have to compete with other strong candidates, including Marshal Haftar; Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dbebebe; former foreign minister Abdel Hadi Al-Hwaij; former Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Aref Al-Nayed; and former interior minister Fathi Pasha Agha.
The December elections will be the country's first since independence from Italy in 1951. The elections could also usher in a new era in the country after years of conflict and instability. The international community has expressed concern about the situation in the country and has pledged to support the democratic process. Recently, several world leaders, such as Emmanuel Macron, Sergey Lavrov and Kamala Harris, met in Paris to discuss the elections. Politicians called for "inclusive" and "credible" elections. They also promised to punish those who attempt to sabotage the elections.