There is an irony in Saif al-Islam Gadhafi registering as a presidential candidate in Libya ten years to the week that he was captured near the Nafusa mountains. Meeting the the lawyers and elders outside the Zintan prison, I was informed that Saif would not be released to the International Criminal Court, but little did I suspect that he would survive a decade, let alone gather enough support to return to the political arena.
Although he has drawn the headlines, there are in fact six other registered candidates, all of whom were born in Cyrenaica (Eastern Libya), or Misratah. They include the military leader, Khalifa Hafter, a senior officer in the revolution who was snubbed by the transitional government in 2012, as well as a respected scholar and distinguished political leaders.
Inevitably, we will see a great deal of misinformation and interference in the next month as external actors promote their preferred candidates and denigrate their rivals. Given that Libya remains in the top ten countries for proven oil reserves, there is much to play for as we approach the elections on the 70th anniversary of independence. For more comment on the future of the country, see Chapter 16 and Jason Pack’s Afterword in Liberating Libya.