The Prodigal Gaddafi Son Appeals to His Father’s Stable Rule


Saif al Islam Gaddafi, the son of autocratic Libyan leader Muammer Gaddafi, famously declared that his people should have the same liberties as the Dutch when regarded as a reformist.

But the idea of the modernizing prince-in-waiting is long gone. Instead, the International Criminal Court is looking for Gaddafi, who said this week that he wants to run for president of Libya for suspected crimes against humanity committed during his father’s 2011 insurrection. He displayed a machine gun and pledged to crush the “riff raff” in the early days of the rebellion.

In his first public appearance in years, Gaddafi, 49, filed his presidential campaign papers in the southern town of Sebha on Sunday. “All those who share my ambition of saving Libya from internal strife and instability and restoring stability, peace, prosperity, fraternal cohabitation, and civil peace… should flock to the electoral process,” he said in a statement this week.

Despite having a surname that is offensive to many Libyans, analysts say it would be a mistake to underestimate his chances in the December 24 election, the first since the 2014 election that ignited a civil war. “It’s difficult to predict if Saif will win,” Claudia Gazzini, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group, said.

“However, a sizable portion of disgruntled millennials would likely vote for him because he is one of the few persons who has not been involved in the disaster of recent years.” They’d also argue that his predictions during the revolt that Libya would be divided and tribes would turn against one another were correct.”

Libya has been fractured since the assassination of his father by rebels, with two, or perhaps three, administrations contending for power. For more than a year, a ceasefire has been held between the forces of Khalifa Haftar, the renegade general backed by the UAE and Russia, and an alliance of militias in western Libya backed by Turkey. Then, after an UN-sponsored debate, a government of national unity was installed in Tripoli, Libya’s western capital, in February.

The UN and western nations are pressing for the election in December as a means of uniting Libya and establishing a legitimate administration capable of disarming militias, restoring order, and reviving the economy. However, the electoral commission has yet to decide which candidates are eligible, and the election outcome is still up in the air.

Many Libyans, analysts say, feel nostalgic when the country was stable, united, and affluent, even under Muammer Gaddafi’s authoritarian leadership, and Gaddafi may be able to capitalize on this.

He had been held captive by a militia from Zintan, a town in northeastern Libya, for six of the previous ten years. Since his release in 2017, he has interacted with many Libyan villages; however, it is unclear what political message he brought with him, if any.

Mohamed Dorda, director of Libya Desk, a research and consulting firm, said, “This has been Libya’s best-kept secret.” “Dozens of individuals have been paying him visits regularly, but there appears to have been an implicit understanding not to talk about it publicly.” Pictures of 200 people sitting in Saif tent have surfaced, but no recordings or rumors have surfaced. Nevertheless, many Libyans I meet in Tunisia claim to have met Saif last week.”

Read more: Libyan leader Gaddafi was slain 10 Years Ago. Here’s a first-hand description of his dying days

Analysts claim Gaddafi has a following among Libyan tribal groups in central and southern Libya. However, they contend that the votes of the “greens” — supporters of the older Gaddafi — will be shared among many personalities from the deposed regime. Bashir Saleh, a longtime Gaddafi ally and financier, is among them. Haftar has also declared himself a candidate.

Even if there has been an angry reaction in sections of western Libya that are strongholds of anti-Gaddafi militias, the welcome indicated for Gaddafi’s candidacy in some locations would increase his status as a power broker, according to Dorda.

According to Al Jazeera, the US has no opinion on Gaddafi’s candidacy. Still, considering that the International Criminal Court wants him, Libyans should consider who would be the “best person” to represent them to the international community. Russia, which opposed his father’s downfall, wants Gaddafi to play a role in Libyan politics to protect its interests. “Russia would be in a better situation,” Gazzini remarked.

However, she did point out that Gaddafi’s background as a proponent of reforms, even if they were limited and cosmetic, was likely to cost him the support of the Gaddafi regime’s hardliners. Read more.

His efforts aided in softening the image of Gaddafi’s cruel dictatorship in western capitals, which we’re keen to gain access to Libya’s oil resources following years of sanctions and isolation. He was also a major factor behind Libya’s international rehabilitation, helping to arrange compensation for victims of the 1988 Pan Am airplane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. A Libyan agent was found guilty by a Scottish court in 2001.

Gaddafi raised criticism of the government and called for a constitution and respect for human rights in a dictatorship that forbade dissent. In 2010, he orchestrated the release of over 200 imprisoned Islamic militants, many of whom had been held after their sentences had expired.

“The hardliners in the regime are unlikely to back him.” “They don’t perceive him as a symbol of the previous government,” Gazzini remarked. “They regard him as a traitor, accusing him of releasing militants who were involved in the insurrection.” However, if he is permitted to run and no violence breaks out, he has a fair chance of attracting the votes of many disgruntled young people.”



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