TRIPOLI: The son of Libya’s late dictator Muammar Gaddafi appeared for nearly the first time in a decade on Sunday to register as a presidential candidate for a December vote planned to help end the years of chaos since his father was toppled. Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, 49, appeared in an electoral commission video in traditional brown robe and turban, and with a grey beard and glasses, signing documents at the election centre in the town of Sebha. Gaddafi is one of the most prominent figures expected to run for president, a list that also includes eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, PM Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.
However, while his name is one of the best known in Libya, he has barely been seen for a decade. His formal entry into an election whose rules are still contested by Libya’s squabbling factions may also cast new questions over a contest that features candidates viewed in some regions as unacceptable. Despite the public backing of most Libyan factions and foreign powers for elections on December 24, the vote remains in doubt as rival entities bicker over the rules and schedule.
While Gaddafi is likely to play on nostalgia for the era before the 2011 Nato-backed uprising that swept his father from power and ushered in a decade of chaos and violence, analysts say he may not prove to be a front runner. The Gaddafi era is still remembered by many Libyans as one of harsh autocracy, while Saif al-Islam 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. Muammar Gaddafi was captured outside his hometown of Sirte by opposition fighters in October 2011 and summarily shot. Saif al-Islam was seized days later by fighters from the mountainous Zintan region as he tried to flee Libya for Niger.