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Libya: Hifter to run for president

November 16, 2021

The divisive figure, who is wanted for war crimes, pledged to restore peace after a decade of conflict. One of his opponents will be Seif al-Islam, the son of former strongman Moammar Gadhafi.

Former Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter
Hifter has been accused of various war crimes while trying to take over TripoliImage: Costas Baltas/Reuters

Libya's former military commander, Khalifa Hifter, announced on Tuesday that he intends to run for president when a national vote is held next month. The December 24 election is being held up as a last-ditch attempt to end a decade of civil conflict and political turmoil.

His candidacy had been expected after he recently resigned his military positions.

What did Hifter say about his presidential run?

In a televised speech, Hifter said only democratic elections could end the crisis that has been ongoing ever since a NATO-backed uprising brought an end to the rule of longtime strongman Moammar Gadhafi. He promised "to begin the path of reconciliation, peace and construction" should he emerge victorious.

Hifter is a divisive figure in Libya, and his candidacy is likely to draw the ire of the UN-recognized government in Tripoli. Opponents have argued that no vote in areas held by his militias can be considered fair and free. He has also been accused of war crimes, such as killing prisoners in 2017.

A former ally of Gadhafi's, Hifter was later exiled and spent decades living in the United States, eventually becoming a citizen.

Gadhafi's son also running

The ex-militia leader will be running against Seif al-Islam, a son of Moammar Gadhafi's.

Before the 2011 uprising, al-Islam had fashioned himself as a reformer who was sympathetic to Western ideas. However, he remains wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed during his father's time in power, and has recently reaffirmed his admiration for the way his father ruled the country.

Significant doubt remains as to whether the vote will take place. Despite being only weeks away, there is still no agreed upon legal basis under which to hold the vote and major political factions have refused to participate.

In a speech Monday evening, the head of the UN-supported government, Abdul Hamid Dbeibah, said the electoral process was facing "huge" problems given the lack of a single constitutional framework for it.

es/wd (AP, Reuters)