Libya's parliament speaker announces run for presidency

Libya's parliament speaker announces run for presidency
3 min read
18 November, 2021
Libya's east-based parliament speaker Aguila Saleh has announced his candidacy for presidential elections due to be held on 24 December, following a similar announcement from warlord Khalifa Haftar
Aguila Saleh's candidacy announcement follows a similar one by Khalifa Haftar [Getty]

Libya’s influential speaker of parliament announced late on Wednesday that he will be running for president, making him the latest candidate to join the race for the country’s highest office after years of civil war.

Aguila Saleh, 77, who has led the country’s House of Representatives since 2014, announced his candidacy in a video statement. The elections are supposed to be held on December 24, but face growing uncertainty after two controversial candidates declared they are running.

In the past week, powerful warlord Khalifa Haftar and Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of  late dictator Muammar Gaddafi have submitted bids to run.

Saleh has been a fixture on Libya’s political scene in recent years. The body he heads came to power through elections in 2014 that were contested.

In the aftermath, the country split further into territories with rival authorities, and the lawmaking body fled from the capital of Tripoli to the eastern city of Tobruk. A court ruled it was no longer legitimate.

“We are working to overcome the past, and close the chapter of conflict, and to embark on the future,” Saleh, a former judge, said in Wednesday's video statement.

Libya has suffered instability ever since longtime dictator Gaddafi was toppled and later killed in a 2011 revolution.

From 2015 to 2020, Libya was split between an internationally recognised government based in the capital Tripoli and a rival government allied to Haftar and the parliament based in eastern Libya. Haftar was supported by Egypt, Russia, the UAE, and foreign mercenaries while the Tripoli-based governmnent received crucial backing from Turkey.

Since February 2021, a unity government that was appointed after a UN-backed peace agreement has been meant to lead the country until the December elections.

Haftar announced his election candidacy on Tuesday, while Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, once his father's heir-apparent filed his official candidacy papers on Sunday in the southern town of Sabha. Seif al-Islam, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity, spent recent years in hiding after he was released from a militia-run prison in the town of Zintan in June 2017.

Haftar, meanwhile, led forces that previously besieged Tripoli in a year-long campaign to try to capture the capital, and he is a defendant in at least three separate federal lawsuits filed in a US court where plaintiffs allege their loved ones were killed or tortured by his forces.

Other obstacles to the vote include occasional infighting among armed groups, the deep rift that remains between Libya’s east and west and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and troops.

Haftar commands the self-proclaimed "Libyan Arab Armed Forces" but delegated his military duties in September to meet candidacy terms under current laws.

Saleh also handed over his duties three months before election day to become eligible to run. Haftar and Saleh have often acted as allies in past years. The lawmaker appointed Haftar as supreme commander of the forces he leads in 2015.