Dr. Ayman Salama
If accepted as a candidate by Libya’s electoral commission, Saif Gaddafi will be able to count on the support of some Libyan tribes, especially in the south, those tribes constitute his major partisans in face of other candidates.
Saif Gaddafi would need to convince public after many years of coercive confinement by western Libyan armed militias of his fitness for leadership, particularly his political experience as one of his father close ring
Saif is seeking to exploit the chronic vulnerability of security and economic uncertainty that has plagued Libya since 2011.
Also, nostalgia for the relative stability of the era before the Arab uprising is widespread throughout the aged population in Libya regardless of their suffering from the toppled regime of Col. Kaddafi.
In this vein, Saif will try to paint himself as a reformist political leader who values democracy but his speculations upon supposed Libyan nostalgia for the stability of his father’s rule are too excessive to depend upon.
Partly, Saif Gaddafi relies on Russia for some reasons, Moscow is backing Saif in the elections while maintaining the status quo and integrating Wagner with Haftar’s forces and this policy might satisfy Haftar.
Russia maintained close relations with Muammar Gaddafi during his reign, signing trade agreements and receiving access to the Libyan port at Benghazi. After Gaddafi died in 2011, and Libya’s subsequent civil war, Putin found another figure to play the controversial leader’s role: ex-General Khalifa Haftar.
In September 2020, circulated rumors were spreading that Saif Gaddafi flew to Moscow; and, in December 2020, a company owned by Yvgeny Prigozhin – the head of the Wagner Group – paid two recently freed men in Libya US$500,000. Libyan authorities accused these men of election meddling after working with Saif. The payment indicated Moscow had begun to show interest in Saif’s campaign.
In this context, Russia began to hedge its bets and support a candidate for the upcoming Libyan elections in December, namely Saif.
Russian oil companies enjoyed lucrative oil contracts under Gaddafi, and they remain anxious to renew the pursuit of that wealth and more importantly Russia and China are seeking to fill the big vacuum that was remarkably established after the US showed noticeable disinterest in Libya since the killing of US Ambassador in 2012.
Ironically public grievance of Gaddafi has subdued over the last six years, the country remains divided. Opposition against Gaddafi is particularly strong in Misrata and parts of Tripoli and no one can judge the potentialities of supporting Saif in the eastern parts of Libya.
Meanwhile, three major obstacles shed light and doubts on the eligibility of Saif for this upcoming election in Libya, firstly: Libyan authorities issued an arrest warrant for Saif due to alleged collaboration with the Russian mercenaries. Secondly: The International Criminal Court has a warrant for Saif’s arrest citing numerous atrocities and crimes against humanity. Thirdly: threats on his life by political rivals.
On the whole, uncertainty is sweeping the entire situation in Libya, even regarding the possibility of holding the next elections in December, amid the sharp division in visions, even within the temporary constitutional bodies.
It is hard to predict the chances of presidential candidates because their eligibility to go through the elections has not yet been determined by the Higher Electoral Commission in Libya.