The son of the late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi appeared for almost the first time in a decade on Sunday to register as a presidential candidate for a December vote scheduled to help end the years of chaos after his father was overthrown.
Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, 49, appeared on a polling station video in a traditional brown dress and turban, and with a gray beard and glasses, signing documents at the polling station in the southern city of Sebha.
Gaddafi is one of the most prominent – and controversial – figures expected to run for president, a list that also includes Eastern Army commander Khalifa Haftar, Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah and parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh.
However, although his name is one of the best known in Libya, and although he once played a major role in shaping policy ahead of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that destroyed his family’s regime, he was barely seen for a decade.
His formal entry into an election, the rules of which are still contested by Libya’s disputed factions, may also raise new questions about a contest that presents candidates viewed in some regions as unacceptable.
Despite the public support of most Libyan factions and foreign powers for elections on December 24, the vote remains in doubt as rival entities quarrel over the rules and schedule.
A major conference in Paris on Friday agreed to sanction anyone who interrupts or obstructs the vote, but with less than six weeks to go, there is still no agreement on rules to govern who should be able to run.
While Gaddafi is likely to play on nostalgia for the era before the NATO-backed uprising in 2011 that swept his father from power and ushered in a decade of chaos and violence, analysts say he may not prove to be a prime minister.
The Gaddafi era is still remembered by many Libyans as one of severe autocracy, while Saif al-Islam and other former regime figures have been without power for so long they can hardly mobilize as much support as main rivals.
Muammar al-Gaddafi was captured outside his hometown Sirte by opposition fighters in October 2011 and promptly shot. Saif al-Islam was captured days later by fighters from the mountainous Zintan region as he tried to flee Libya to Niger.
A little over a decade later, Saif al-Islam is now a kind of cipher for Libyans. The Zintan fighters have kept him out of public view for years and his views on the crisis are not known.
He gave an interview to the New York Times earlier this year, but has not yet made any public appearance speaking directly to Libyans.
Complicating his presidential ambitions, Gaddafi was tried in absentia in 2015 by a Tripoli court at which he appeared via video link of Zintan, and which sentenced him to death for war crimes including killing protesters during the 2011 uprising.
He would probably face arrest or other dangers if he appeared publicly in the capital Tripoli. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court.
Educated at the London School of Economics and a fluent English speaker, Saif al-Islam was once seen by many governments as Libya’s acceptable, west-friendly face, and a possible heir apparent.
But when an uprising erupted in 2011 against Muammar Gaddafi’s long reign, Saif al-Islam immediately chose family and clan loyalties over his many friendships in the West, telling Reuters television: “We are fighting here in Libya; we are dying here in Libya. “.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and is published by syndicated feed.)