Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of former Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, has registered as a presidential contender for the December 24 election, according to the country’s electoral authority.
While Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi is expected to appeal to nostalgia for the era before his father’s overthrow in 2011, analysts think he may not be the front-runner, according to AlJazeera.
“Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi submitted his presidential candidacy to the office of the High National Electoral Commission in the [southern] city of Sebha,” the commission stated in a statement on Sunday.
Gaddafi is set to run for president alongside renegade eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.
Gaddafi, with a grey beard, glasses, and a traditional brown robe and turban, was photographed signing documents at the registration center in the southern town of Sebha on Sunday, according to photos circulated on social media.
Despite the fact that major Libyan factions and foreign powers have expressed support for elections on December 24, the vote is still in doubt as different entities fight over the rules and timeline.
On Friday, a large conference in Paris, France resolved to punish individuals who disrupt or prevent the election, but no regulations for who should be allowed to run have yet been agreed upon.
Since the 2011 NATO-backed rebellion against Muammar Gaddafi, the elections are seen as a pivotal stage in the UN-backed peace process to end a decade of violent upheaval that has pulled in regional powers and damaged Mediterranean stability.
Wrangling over the election threatens to unravel the wider peace process, which also includes efforts to unify long-divided state institutions and to pull out foreign mercenaries who remain entrenched along front lines despite a ceasefire.
The Gaddafi era is still remembered by many Libyans as one of harsh autocracy, while Saif al-Islam Gaddafi and other former regime figures have been out of power for so long, they may find it difficult to mobilise as much support as major rivals.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi remains something of a cypher to many Libyans, having spent the past decade out of public sight since his capture in 2011 by fighters from the mountain region of Zintan.
He gave an interview to the New York Times early this year, but he has yet to talk directly to Libyans in public.
Gaddafi’s presidential ambitions were complicated by the fact that he was prosecuted in absentia by a Tripoli court in 2015, where he appeared by videolink from Zintan, and was condemned to death for war crimes, including the massacre of protestors during the 2011 revolt.
If he appeared in public in Tripoli, he would almost certainly be arrested or face other hazards. The International Criminal Court has also issued an arrest warrant for him.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, a graduate of the London School of Economics and a native English speaker, was previously viewed as Libya’s respectable, Western-friendly face and a potential heir apparent by many governments.
When the revolt against Muammar Gaddafi’s long rule erupted in 2011, Saif al-Islam chose family and clan loyalty over his many Western friendships, telling Reuters television, “We fight here in Libya; we die here in Libya.”