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Libya court reinstates Saif al-Islam Gaddafi as presidential candidate

The son of Libya's late ruler is now eligible to run as a candidate in the 24 December polls, a southern court has ruled
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the second eldest son of Libya's late dictator, is attempting to stage a political comeback in the North African country, putting him on a potential collision course with other power-brokers (AFP/File photo)

An appeal court in southern Libya on Thursday accepted the appeal submitted by Saif al-Islam Gaddafi against his disqualification from the list of candidates for the 24 December presidential elections, local media reported. 

He had lodged an appeal earlier in the day at the court in Sabha against the electoral commission's rejection of his application last month, AFP reported.

Gaddafi has been reinstated as a candidate, according to Omar al-Shuwaidi, an adviser to the defence team of Gaddafi, who told Al-Araby al-Jadid newspaper that the court accepted the appeal submitted by Khaled al-Zaidi, the head of the defence team.

Libya’s election commission had ruled on 24 November that Gaddafi, the son of the country's former ruler, was ineligible to run. 

'High' potential for violence

The 49-year-old had emerged in the southern city earlier this month to declare his candidacy, where he is believed to have support amongst members of the Gaddadfa tribe and former loyalists to his late father's government. 

Over the past week, tensions in the city have been running high. Eastern-based commander Khalifa Haftar reportedly dispatched fighters to Sabha to blockade the courthouse and prevent the appeal from proceeding, while Gaddafi supporters had gathered outside. 

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On Monday, the United Nations issued a statement expressing concern over the situation in the south and warning it could impose sanctions on parties interfering in the election.  

The UN mission in Libya said it was “alarmed by increasing reports of intimidation and threats against judges and judicial employees” in Sabha, adding that the events were “directly impeding the electoral process”. 

The revival of Gaddafi's presidential bid comes as fellow candidate, current Prime Minister Abdul Haid Dbeibeh, also succeeded in appealing a decision disqualifying him from running in the 24 December poll. 

Gaddafi and Dbeibeh, along with eastern commander Khalifa Haftar, are three of the most divisive figures in a race crowded with nearly 100 candidates.

While world powers like the US and France are pushing for the December election as a way to unify the war-torn country, many analysts have cautioned that the continued sway of armed groups and lack of an agreed-upon electoral framework risk delegitimising the election and ushering in a return to violence. 

'There is almost no foreseeable scenario in which the results of the presidential election will be accepted as legitimate by all parties'

- Paolo Napolitano, Dragonfly Intelligence

The standoff between Haftar and Gaddafi camps was followed by reports by Libyan media on Wednesday that polling stations in the West of the country, where the internationally recognised government is based, were raided by armed groups. 

In an interview in November, Paolo Napolitano, a senior analyst with Dragonfly Intelligence, told Middle East Eye that the political risk firm believed "the potential for a return to armed violence [in Libya] is high".

"There is almost no foreseeable scenario in which the results of the presidential election will be accepted as legitimate by all parties," Napolitano added.