CAIRO — The son and one-time heir apparent of late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi announced Sunday his candidacy for the country’s presidential election next month, Libya’s election agency said.
Seif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity related to the 2011 uprising, submitted his candidacy papers in the southern town of Sabha, 650 kilometers (400 miles) south of the capital of Tripoli, the High National Elections Commission said in a statement.
Gadhafi’s son was captured by fighters in the town of Zintan late in 2011, the year when a popular uprising, backed by the NATO, toppled his father after more than 40 years in power. Moammar Gadhafi was later killed amid the ensuing fighting that would turn into a civil war.
In a video shared by an election official, Seif al-Islam addressed the camera, saying that God will decide the right path for the country’s future. He wore a traditional Libyan robe and turban and spectacles. It was the first time in years that Seif al-Islam appeared in public.
Seif al-Islam, who was seen as the reformist face of Gadhafi’s regime before the 2011 uprising, was released in June 2017 after more than five years of detention. In July he told The New York Times in an exclusive interview that he was considering a run for the country’s top office. His candidacy is likely to stir controversy across the divided country.
Seif al-Islam is wanted by the ICC on charges of crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the first weeks of the 2011 uprising.
ICC spokesman Fadi El Abdallah declined to comment on Seif al-Islam’s candidacy.
“The Court doesn’t comment on political issues, as for the legal side there is a pending warrant of arrest and that hasn’t changed,” he said.
Gadhafi’s son, who has deeply rooted links to tribes across Libya, is the first major presidential hopeful to submit his candidacy to run for the country’s highest post. Also widely expected to announce their bids are powerful military commander Khalifa Hifter, Parliament Speaker Agila Saleh and former Interior Minister Fathi Bashaga.
The election agency began the registration process for presidential and parliamentary hopefuls last week. Potential candidates have until Nov. 22 to register to run for the country’s highest post, while parliamentary hopefuls have until Dec. 7 to register their candidacies.
Libya is set to hold presidential elections on Dec. 24, after years of U.N.-led attempts to usher in a more democratic future and bring the country’s war to an end. Following the overthrow and killing of Gadhafi, oil-rich Libya spent most of the last decade spilt between rival governments — one based in the capital, Tripoli, and the other in the eastern part of the country.
The announcement came after an international conference in Paris on Friday expressed support for holding “free, fair, inclusive and credible presidential and parliamentary elections” on Dec. 24.
The long-awaited vote still faces challenges, including unresolved issues over election laws and occasional infighting among armed groups. Other obstacles include the deep rift that remains between the country’s east and west, split for years by the war, and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.
Gadhafi the dictator had eight children, most of whom played significant roles in his regime. His son Muatassim was killed at the same time Gadhafi was captured and slain. Two other sons, Seif al-Arab and Khamis, were killed earlier in the uprising. Another son, al-Saadi Gadhafi, was released in September after more than seven years of detention in the capital of Tripoli following his extradition from neighboring Niger.