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Libya: Parliament speaker presents candidacy for presidential election

Aguila Saleh is the 24th candidate to sign up to run in the 24 December polls
Aguila Saleh, speaker of the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives, in a December 2020 file photo (AFP)

Libya's parliament speaker, Aguila Saleh, on Sunday registered to run in next month's presidential election, joining a military strongman and the son of Muammar Gaddafi in the contest.

Libya's first ever direct presidential poll, due on 24 December, comes as the United Nations seeks to end a decade of violence in the oil-rich nation since a Nato-backed uprising that toppled Gaddafi in 2011.

Saleh is the 24th candidate to sign up at the offices of the electoral commission, the HNEC, with the 77-year-old registering his details in the eastern port of Benghazi.

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"I came today to the headquarters of the High Elections Commission in Benghazi to submit the required documents for the nomination to the position of president of the Libyan Republic," he said on Libya Votes TV.

Saleh is considered to be close to eastern military chief Khalifa Haftar, who registered his name in the race on Tuesday.

That move came just days after Saif al-Islam Gaddafi declared his own candidacy, a decade after his father's death in the Nato-backed uprising.

Pro-Haftar forces remain in control of much of eastern and southern Libya, and some analysts have voiced scepticism over the chances of a free and fair vote.

Nearly three million Libyans, out of a total population of some seven million people, have so far registered to vote.

But the run-up to the vote has been marred by bitter divisions over the legal and constitutional framework, and many in western Libya have rejected any run by Haftar, who led a devastating but ultimately unsuccessful campaign to seize the capital before he was pushed back in 2020.

In September, Saleh ratified a contentious electoral law criticised for bypassing due process and favouring a bid by Haftar.

On Friday, hundreds of Libyans protested against the law in the capital Tripoli, and in the city of Misrata.

Demonstrators stamped on posters of Haftar and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity.

Both presidential and legislative polls had been slated for 24 December, but in early October parliament split the dates of the vote by postponing legislative elections until January, a move criticised by some.

The path to the ballot box has been lined with disputes over the constitutional basis for the polls and the powers that are to be given to whoever wins.