Why Did Libya Election Panel Reject Gaddafi’s Son As A Presidential Candidate? – OpEd


Armed men prevented Saif al-Islam Gaddafi from lodging an appeal against his disqualification for Libya’s presidential election, adding to fears of turmoil around the vote.  He submitted his papers to officially run for the presidential elections in Libya, where supporters of the former regime are looking forward to his return to power. The disputes about issues including the eligibility of candidates are threatening to derail the election, set for Dec. 24.

In addition, a court in southern Libya ruled that Saif al-Islam, son of the late leader Muammar Gaddafi, must be reinstated to the presidential race, days after he was excluded by the Electoral Commission. The High Electoral Commission in Libya had excluded Saif al-Islam from the list of candidates for the presidential elections, because of “violating two provisions of the law on the election of the head of state.”  Article 10, Clause 7, and Article 17, Clause 5 did not apply.” Paragraph 7 of Article 10 of the Presidential Election Law stipulates that he “shall not have been finally convicted of a felony or a crime against honor or trust.” As for the fifth item of Article 17, the applicant is invited to submit a “certificate of absence of precedents”.

Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi is wanted by the International Criminal Court for “crimes against humanity”. In addition, a court in Tripoli had sentenced him to death in absentia in 2015, for committing war crimes during the 2011 protests. In addition, the Electoral Commission has disqualified Saif al-Islam and 24 others out of 98 candidates for the presidency, subject to appeal, and Haftar’s forces withdrew from the vicinity of the Sabha court after they were there to obstruct the appeal process of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi.

This case has raised concerns regarding the decision of the judges. Was it for fear of issuing a ruling or was Haftar’s regime will negatively affect them? The transition to democracy has become in a difficult situation and the intervention of the United Nations has become a useless backed peace process for ending a decade of chaos since Muammar Gaddafi was toppled. All the previous elements of force must be excluded to make sure the peace process.

According to that, hundreds of citizens organized a protests in front of the headquarters of the High National Elections Commission in Tripoli to decide the form and process of government through the constitution, to reject the current electoral laws and the holding of elections without a constitution, as the result of blatant violations and fraud which had occurred in the electoral process and the acceptance of wanted criminals as presidential candidates.

Why did Saif al-Islam appear now?

Saif al-Islam appeared in the same uniform that his father was famous for always wearing, and spoke the same way like his parent was famous, and which some saw as a way to evoke Libyan nostalgia for a time when the country was stable despite being under a long-term dictatorship.

Saif al-Islam played important roles in Libyan affairs before the revolution to support his father. After the revolution, Saif al-Islam was the second figure to defend the regime because he was a beneficiary of it. He appeared on Libyan television more than once supporting his father, criticizing the revolutionaries, threatening them, and describing them as “agents and traitors.”

While the legal situation is ambiguous, the Military Prosecutor in Libya, Mohamed Gharouda, has called on the Electoral Commission to stop the candidacy procedures of Saif al-Islam and General Khalifa Haftar “until they comply with the investigation of the facts attributed to them”, as both are accused of committing crimes against the Libyans.

Previously, the Military Prosecutor’s Office in Tripoli issued a memorandum to arrest Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi as he was sentenced to death in 2015. The Libyan judiciary sentenced Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi to death by firing squad, “for his involvement in committing war crimes” to suppress the uprising that toppled his father’s regime, but the sentence was not implemented. In 2017, the armed group in which he was detained announced his release following the controversial “general amnesty” law issued by the Libyan parliament. He is wanted by the international judiciary. He submitted his candidacy documents to the electoral management office in Sebha, in the south of the country, and also received his electoral card from the center. The electoral process registered with it, completing the legal formulations, according to what was announced by the High National Elections Commission. However, his release was not subject to any judicial procedures specified by the General Amnesty Law.

Saif al-Islam took advantage of conflict and chaos to pass his political project, and he knows very well that judicial rulings in Libya do not have the strength on the ground to be implemented, and he relies on the political division between the different parties, to present his ambitious political project and appear to be the savior of the Libyans from the ongoing power struggle.

There are risks associated with the ongoing political polarization around the elections, and failure to hold elections could lead to a significant deterioration in Libya and further division and conflict, and the country has descended into chaos after the overthrow of the old dictatorship of Muammar Gaddafi with the support of NATO in 2011. Then a government emerged. The internationally recognized National Accord and the Libyan National Army east of Khalifa Haftar – who destroyed the state and in 2019 the United Nations agreed to a ceasefire.

All prominent figures on the Libyan scene have regional and international supporters. For example, Haftar is supported by Russia, Egypt, and the Emirates. Saif al-Islam is the most important candidate for Russia, and his appearance at this time is a Russian response to the American plan to hold presidential elections and form a legitimate government that confronts The Russian presence in Libya and limiting its influence. This is something that all European countries want.

Given these conditions, the UN mediator in Libya, Jan Kubis, the UN spokesman, resigned less than a year after taking office and a month before the scheduled elections in the country.  The risks associated with the ongoing political polarization around the elections, and the failure to hold the elections could lead to a significant deterioration of the situation in the country and could lead to further division and conflict.

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry

Prof. Miral Sabry AlAshry is Co-lead for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) at the Centre for Freedom of the Media, the Department of Journalism Studies at the University of Sheffield.

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