Libya’s powerful commander, Khalifa Haftar, a major figure in the Libyan civil war who wields wide sway over the east of the country, on Tuesday announced intention to run in a Dec. 24 presidential election that aims to help end a decade of conflict.
A divisive figure, his candidacy is one of many points of contention overshadowing the presidential and parliamentary votes which remain in doubt with just weeks to go, despite international pressure for them to happen on time
Haftar submitted his candidacy papers on Tuesday in the eastern city of Benghazi and declared his candidacy in a televised speech, he said he’s seeking the country’s highest post to “lead our people in a fateful stage.”
Haftar said elections were the only way out of the crisis in Libya, which has suffered chaos and conflict since the NATO-backed uprising that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
He called on Libyan people to vote “with the highest levels of awareness and responsibility” so the nation can begin rebuilding and reconciliation after a decade of chaos and civil war.
Libya has been wracked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi in 2011. The oil-rich nation had for years been split between a government in the east, backed by Hifter, and a U.N.-supported administration in Tripoli, aided by west-based Libyan militias. Each side has also had the support of mercenaries from countries such as Russia and Syria and different regional powers.
Haftar commands the self-styled Libyan Arab Armed Forces but delegated his military duties in September to his chief of staff, Abdel-Razek al-Nadhouri, for three months, to meet candidacy terms.
His announcement comes after Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son and one-time heir apparent of the late dictator, submitted candidacy papers Sunday in the southern town of Sabha. Seif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, has spent years largely in hiding.
The election is meant as a milestone in the U.N.-backed political process to knit Libya back together.
However, with no clear agreement on the legal basis for the election, major factions may reject the vote. On Monday, interim Prime Minister Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah, who may also be a candidate for president, called for new election law.
Analysts say they do not expect Gaddafi to prove as strong a candidate as rivals who have been able to build constituencies through their control over financial or military resources during the past decade.
If accepted, both Haftar and Seif al-Islam would be among front-runners in the Dec. 24 vote. They have stirred controversy in western Libya and the capital of Tripoli, the stronghold of their opponents, mostly Islamists.
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