Powerful ex-Libyan minister announces presidential candidacy
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Former Libyan interior minister announced his presidential run in next month’s highly anticipated election amid growing uncertainty
Fathi Bashagha submitted his candidacy file in the capital Tripoli and said his political program envisioned “a new Libya” based on justice, respect for human rights and a market economy.
The 59-year-old is the fourth candidate to join the race, which has so far seen three controversial figures announce their candidacy, including a son of late dictator Moamer Kadhafi and a powerful military commander.
The vote faces growing uncertainty. Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled Gaddafi in 2011. The country had for years been divided between an eastern government and a UN-backed administration in Tripoli, aided by militias based in the west. Each side also had the support of mercenaries and foreign forces from Turkey, Russia and Syria and different regional powers.
“Libya will not return to until 2011. We will build a new Libya,” Bashagha told reporters as he announced his candidacy. “We will end the suffering, the tears and the blood.”
“Libya will move from a rentier state to a market economy,” he added. “We will embrace reform, reconciliation and reconstruction.
A former air force pilot and businessman, Bashagha served as Interior Minister from 2018 until early this year in the UN-backed government led by Fayez Sarraj, establishing himself as a powerful figure in western Libya. It cultivates links with Turkey, France and the United States, but also with Egypt and Russia, which support its name rivals in the intra-Libyan conflict.
Sarraj’s government resigned after a new transitional government was elected by Libyan delegates in Geneva in February in talks mediated by the UN. Bashagha was a candidate for prime minister but ultimately Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah was chosen to head the transitional cabinet.
The task of the interim government is to steer Libya towards national reconciliation and lead the nation until the general elections scheduled for December 24.
Bashagha survived an attack on his motorcade on a Tripoli highway in February, when gunmen opened fire on his motorcade. He was not injured but at least one of his guards was injured.
The race began on Sunday, when Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son and heir apparent to the late dictator, filed his official candidacy documents in the southern city of Sabha. Seif al-Islam, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has spent the last few years in hiding after being released from a prison run by militias in the town of Zintan in June 2017.
On Tuesday, the commander of a self-proclaimed army that responded to the east-based Libyan administration, Khalifa Hifter, announced his candidacy. Hifter’s forces had already besieged Tripoli in a year-long campaign to attempt to capture the Libyan capital. He is also 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.
Influential Libyan Parliament Speaker Aguila Saleh joined the race on Wednesday evening. The 77-year-old led the country’s House of Representatives which came to power in the 2014 elections, which ended up being contested. In the process, Libya further divided into rival administrations to the east and west, and the legislature fled from Tripoli to the eastern city of Tobruk after a court ruled it did not. was more legitimate.
The December elections also face other obstacles, including occasional internal struggles between armed groups, the deep divide that remains between eastern and western Libya, and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and soldiers.
ElHennawy reported from Cairo.
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