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Saif al-Islam Gaddafi banned from Libya presidential poll

Libya’s election authority has banned Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the late dictator’s son, from taking part in the North African oil-rich country’s upcoming elections, citing a criminal conviction. before.

Gaddafi, who made his first public appearance in years last week when he filed his papers for the presidency, is one of 25 candidates excluded from contesting next month’s poll for a variety of reasons. do. He can appeal the election commission’s decision.

Once seen as the successor to his father, Muammer Gaddafi, the 49-year-old has been out of sight since the 2011 uprising, aided by NATO air strikes, toppled his regime. late dictator. The younger Gaddafi, who once considered himself a modernizer, resisted the revolution, brandishing a machine gun, warning that the country would descend into civil war and vowing that the regime would never surrender.

He was captured by an armed group west of the city of Zintan, and four years later, a court in Tripoli sentenced him to death in absentia for war crimes committed during the uprising. He was released in 2017 but is still wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity.

Still, analysts say he will draw support during the election from some disgruntled Libyans, tired of a decade of turmoil and violence, and supporters of the old regime Also known as “the unfriendly people”.

Analysts say Gaddafi’s ouster is unlikely to spark new unrest, pointing out that he has no armed base.

“From what I understand, Saif’s entourage is quite cold and my impression is that they think of the possibility that he will be disqualified, but they are not willing to take action or anything against this, and willing to help others. candidate,” said Claudia Gazzini, senior analyst at Crisis Group.

The United Nations and Western nations are pinning their hopes on the December 24 presidential vote and the subsequent parliamentary poll, which will help unify the country after years of conflict and chaos. causing the country to split into a patchwork kingdom.

Prominent candidates include Abdul Hamid Debeibeh, prime minister of the interim government and one of the country’s richest men, and Khalifa Haftar, a military strongman whose forces control much of the country. eastern Libya. Haftar sparked a civil war in 2019 that attracted regional powers after he launched an offensive against a weak United Nations-backed government in Tripoli.

That conflict subsided last year after Turkey intervened militarily to support the Tripoli-based government, leaving Haftar with a series of setbacks. But the country is still overrun with powerful militias and countless foreign mercenaries, including fighters from Russia, Syria, Sudan and Chad.

The lead up to the election was marred by disputes and complaints about the process. Gazzini said tensions could flare once the appeals process begins, under which any “interested party” can seek to disqualify a candidate.

“The main concern about failure and potential volatility is that in this next period, if we see Haftar get kicked out or if we see Debeibeh get kicked out, but the odds of that happening are very low,” she said. added.

Tim Eaton, a Libya expert at Chatham House, said the international community’s approach to Haftar was “quite pragmatic” amid fears that his exclusion would risk a return to violence .

“The belief was that he had to be allowed to run, and could be sidelined if he lost,” Eaton said. “The argument is that excluding someone from taking control of a large part of the country will not give the new government the money it is asking for.”

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