The son of late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi registered on Sunday as a presidential candidate in December’s elections, as disagreements intensified over proposed voting rules as a way to end a decade of violence.
Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, 49, appeared in photos on social media in a traditional brown robe and turban, gray beard and glasses, signing documents at the election center in the southern town of Sabha. An official confirmed that he had registered.
Gaddafi is one of the most prominent figures expected to run for the presidency – a list that also includes eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, Prime Minister Abdel Hamid Dabaiba and Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh.
However, despite the popular support of most Libyan factions and foreign powers for the December 24 elections, voting remains in doubt as competing entities wrangle over rules and timetable.
A major conference in Paris agreed on Friday to penalize anyone who disrupts or prevents voting, but with less than six weeks to go, there is still no agreement on rules governing who should be able to run.
While Gaddafi is likely to play on nostalgia for the pre-NATO 2011 uprising that ousted his father from power and led to a decade of chaos and violence, analysts say he may not be the favourite.
Many Libyans still remember the Gaddafi era as a harsh authoritarian rule, while Saif al-Islam and other figures from the former regime remained out of power for so long, they might find it difficult to garner the same amount of support as the main rivals.
Muammar Gaddafi was captured outside his hometown of Sirte by opposition fighters in October 2011 and shot without trial.
His son Saif al-Islam remains a stalwart for many Libyans, having spent the past decade out of sight since he was captured the same month by fighters from the mountainous region of Zintan.
He gave an interview to the New York Times earlier this year, but has yet to appear in public speaking directly to the Libyans.
He was tried in absentia for war crimes
Further complicating his presidential ambitions, Gaddafi was tried in absentia in 2015 by a Tripoli court in which he appeared via a video link from Zintan, and sentenced him to death for war crimes including killing protesters during the 2011 revolution.
He is likely to face arrest or other risks if he appears in public in the capital, Tripoli. It is also wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Educated at the London School of Economics and fluent in English, Saif al-Islam was seen by many governments as the accepted and Western-friendly face of Libya and a potential heir.
But when a rebellion erupted in 2011 against Muammar Gaddafi’s long rule, Saif al-Islam immediately chose family and clan loyalty over his many friendships in the West, telling Reuters TV: “We fight here in Libya; we die here in Libya.”