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Seif al-Islam Gadhafi
Seif was an important figure in his father's regimeImage: Ben Curtis/AP Photo/picture alliance

Libya: Court reinstates Gadhafi's son as election candidate

December 3, 2021

Seif al-Islam al-Gadhafi has said he wants to restore Libya's "lost unity." The son of late strongman leader Moammar Gadhafi had previously been barred from presidential elections slated for December.


Libya's election commission has ruled that Seif al-Islam al-Gadhafi may now stand as a presidential candidate after he was disqualified last month.

Gadhafi, son of former leader Moammar Gadhafi and once his heir apparent, had been barred from running because of past convictions against him for using violence against protesters.

What did the court decide?

A court in the southern province of Sabha finally ruled in favor of Seif Gadhafi, having failed to convene for almost a week after the building was surrounded by armed men who stopped judges from entering.

Gadhafi tweeted late on Thursday, to thank the judges for risking their personal safety. He said they had done so "in the name of truth."

Khaled al-Zaydi, his lawyer, praised Gadhafi's reinstatement as "a victory for justice and the people's will."

Libya's High National Elections Commissions had determined last month that Gadhafi was ineligible to run in the December 24 election.

According to the commission, Seif Gadhafi was disqualified because of a criminal conviction.

In 2015, he was found guilty and sentenced to death in absentia for war crimes committed during the violent uprising in 2011. The ouster ultimately ended with the public lynching of his father. However, Gadhafi maintains his innocence.

Criticism of latest decision

There are already serious disputes over how the elections should be held, and questions over their credibility and how they should be held.

The elections — which have the enthusiastic backing of many Western Nations — are part of a UN backed effort to bring peace back to the North African country.

Libya analyst Emadeddin Badi posted on Twitter that the decision on Thursday merely raised more questions.

"The electoral process is slowly achieving a hat trick, destroying the credibility of the UN, of #Libya's judiciary, & of elections as a way (out) of the crisis," Badi said.

Who is Seif Gadhafi?

The now 49-year-old Seif Gadhafi was an influential figure in his father's inner circle.

He performed public relations and diplomatic roles on his father's behalf, and was the second most widely recognized person in Libya being at times the "de facto" prime minister.

In 2011, the International Criminal Court in The Hague accused him of crimes against humanity, issuing an arrest warrant against him.

Libya has been engulfed in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed the longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

After his father was ousted, Seif was captured by tribal militias in Zintan, in northwestern Libya. He was released by them in 2017 and is thought to still be living among his former captors. 

In an interview with the New York Times in July, the first he had given a Western publication for years, Seif had hinted at a presidential bid this year. He said he wanted to "restore the lost unity" of Libya.

He announced his candidacy last month.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi shows a torn copy of the U.N. Charter during his address to the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters
Moammar Gadhafi ruled Libya from 1969 until 2011Image: picture-alliance/R.Drew

Does he stand a chance?

Seif Gadhafi is one of several prominent names in a race that is also expected to include General Khalifa Haftar, parliamentary speaker Aguila Saleh, and Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah.

Despite his father's well-documented eccentricity and brutality, the Gadhafi family remains popular with a constituency of Libyans.

Although Seif Gadhafi may be able to play on the nostalgia of some voters, analysts have said he may face difficulties in mobilizing support and may not ultimately prove to be a front-runner.

It's thought likely that Gadhafi would face arrest or other dangers if he appeared publicly in Tripoli. 

The December election has the public backing of most Libyan factions — as well as foreign powers. However, the vote is still in doubt as rivals quarrel over the rules and schedule. 

A conference in Paris last month agreed to sanction anyone seeking to disrupt or stop the election, but there has still been no agreement on matters such as who should be able to run.

Another of Gadhafi's sons, Saadi, was freed from prison in Tripoli in September, and is thought to have traveled to Turkey.

His release is believed to have been the result of negotiations between tribal leaders and high-ranking government officials.

rc/rt (AFP, AP)

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