(Reuters)The son of Libya’s late ruler Muammar Gaddafi appeared for nearly the first time in a decade on Sunday to register as a presidential candidate for a December vote planned to help end the years of chaos since his father was toppled.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, 49, appeared in an electoral commission video in traditional brown robe and turban, and with a gray beard and glasses, signing documents at the election center in the southern town of Sebha.
Gaddafi is one of the most prominent — and controversial — figures expected to run for president, a list that also includes eastern military commander Khalifa Haftar, Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah and parliament speaker Aguila Saleh.
However, while his name is one of the best known in Libya, and though he once played a major role in shaping policy before the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that destroyed his family’s regime, he has barely been seen for a decade.
His formal entry into an election whose rules are still contested by Libya’s squabbling factions may also cast new questions over a contest that features candidates viewed in some regions as unacceptable.
Despite the public backing of most Libyan factions and foreign powers for elections on December 24, the vote remains in doubt as rival entities bicker over the rules and schedule.
A major conference in Paris on Friday agreed to sanction any who disrupt or prevent the vote, but with less than six weeks to go, there is still no agreement on rules to govern who should be able to run.
While Gaddafi is likely to play on nostalgia for the era before the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that swept his father from power and ushered in a decade of chaos and violence, analysts say he may not prove to be a front runner.
Saif al-Islam remains a cipher to Libyans as the Zintan fighters kept him hidden for years, and his views on the country’s crisis are not known.
The Gaddafi era is still remembered by many Libyans as one of harsh autocracy, while Saif al-Islam and other former regime figures have been out of power for so long they may find it difficult to mobilize as much support as major rivals.
Moammar Gadhafi was captured outside his hometown of Sirte by opposition fighters in October 2011 and summarily shot. Saif al-Islam was seized days later by fighters from the mountainous Zintan region as he tried to flee Libya for Niger.
Just over a decade later, Saif al-Islam is now something of a cipher for Libyans. The Zintan fighters kept him for years out of public sight and his views on the crisis are not known.