Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of slain Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, registered Sunday to run in December presidential polls seen as crucial to helping the country turn a page on a decade of conflict.
Libya’s first ever direct presidential poll, with a first round on December 24, is the climax of a process launched last year by the United Nations to draw a line under years of violence since the revolt that toppled Gadhafi in 2011.
“Seif al-Islam Gadhafi submitted… his candidacy for the presidential election to the High National Electoral Commission office in the city of Sebha,” a statement by the commission said.
It said he had completed “all the required legal conditions” and that he was also issued with a voter registration card for the southern Sebha district.
Seif al-Islam, long-considered his father’s erstwhile heir apparent, was seen registering his candidacy, dressed in traditional robes and headdress.
Libya opened registration on Monday for candidates in presidential and parliamentary polls.
Both are slated for December 24, but in early October parliament split the dates of the vote by postponing legislative elections until January.
Foreign powers have been pushing hard for both elections to be still held on the same date, as agreed at UN-led talks last year.
On Friday, world powers at a Paris summit repeated that call, saying Libya was at a “crossroads” that would determine its future.
Speculation had been mounting for months over a possible presidential bid by Seif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity allegedly committed during the 2011 NATO-backed popular revolt.
– Political comeback –
In July, Seif al-Islam, 49, emerged from years in the shadows and told The New York Times he was planning a political comeback.
In a rare interview, he said he wanted to “restore the lost unity” of Libya after a decade of chaos and did not exclude standing for the presidency.
“I’ve been away from the Libyan people for 10 years. You need to come back slowly, slowly. Like a striptease. You need to play with their minds a little,” the paper quoted him as saying.
Until the interview, Seif al-Islam had not been seen or heard from since June 2014, when he appeared via video link from Zintan, in the west of the country, during his trial by a Tripoli court.
Four years later, the Tripoli court sentenced him in absentia to death for crimes committed during the revolt.
A rival administration in the east later pardoned Seif al-Islam but the decision was never confirmed by authorities in Tripoli.
French President Emmanuel Macron hosted world powers in Paris on Friday for an international conference on Libya, in a bid to help turn a new page in its bloody history.
“We urge all Libyan stakeholders and candidates to respect their commitments towards holding elections on 24 December 2021 (and) to accept the results of free, fair and inclusive elections,” the powers said in a statement after the talks.
But despite a year of relative peace following a ceasefire between eastern and western camps, the process has been overshadowed by wrangling over the legal basis for the votes and the powers of whoever wins.
Speculation has also been mounting for months over possible presidential bids by eastern-based military chief Khalifa Haftar.
Former interior minister Fathi Bashagha has confirmed he will run, while others expected to do so include diplomats Aref al-Nayed and Ibrahim Dabbachi, as well as comedian Hatem al-Kour.