Qaddafi Son Wants Libya Presidential Vote as Soon as Possible

(Bloomberg) -- Saif al-Islam Qaddafi, the fugitive son of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, supports holding presidential elections as soon as possible, a representative said, criticizing the United Nations envoy to Libya for his proposal to hold the vote only by year-end.

“Any delay creates more problems,” Mohamed al-Qailoushi, an aide to Saif al-Islam, said by phone on Saturday. “The only solution is elections: if you maintain the current political situation, that is not in the Libyan people’s interests.”

A summit on Libya hosted by Italy in November set a target of holding elections in the first half of 2019. But UN envoy Ghassan Salame said the presidential poll may not happen until the end of the year. “We should first hold parliamentary elections, then a referendum on the constitution and then presidential elections -- God willing -- by the end of the year,” he said in an interview with Al Hurra channel earlier this week.

Qaddafi’s son hasn’t announced his intentions whether to stand for president but last month he sent an envoy to Russia, which has become a key power broker in Libya, to ask for political support. A senior Russian diplomat later said Saif should be allowed to run if he wants to.

The question whether to be a presidential candidate “is a personal decision for Saif al-Islam,” said his aide, al-Qailoushi, who declined to comment on Qaddafi’s whereabouts.

The one-time Libyan heir-apparent hasn’t appeared in public since he was released in 2017 after a trial in the wake of the revolution that toppled and killed his father in 2011. He could choose to stand in the national elections the UN plans to hold under its latest plan to unify the fractured oil producer, even though he’s wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Russia has been seeking a bigger role in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa, part of a push to build its geopolitical might. As well as contacts with Saif al-Islam, it’s built ties to Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, who controls most of the oil-producing eastern part of Libya as well as the rival UN-backed prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj, based in Tripoli.

Stabilizing the oil-exporting North African nation is a priority for European governments. The chaos that has engulfed Libya made it a favored transit point for migrants to Europe, feeding a rise in populism. Insecurity has also enabled jihadists fleeing Syria and other conflicts to establish strongholds just across the Mediterranean.

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