Monday, December 6, 2021

Domineering ex-minister of Libya announces presidential candidacy

TRIPOLI, Libya (AP) – On Thursday, the former Libyan interior minister announced his bid to run for the presidency in next month’s highly anticipated election. war.

Fathi Bashagha presented documents on his candidacy in the capital Tripoli and said that his political platform envisions 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 in which three controversial figures have so far announced their applications, including the son of the country’s late dictator Muammar Gaddafi and a powerful military leader.

Voting faces growing uncertainty. Libya has been in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising toppled Gaddafi in 2011. For years, the country was divided between the government in the east and the UN-backed administration in Tripoli, backed by Western-based militias. Each side was also supported by mercenaries and foreign forces from Turkey, Russia, Syria and various regional powers.

“Libya will not return until 2011. We will build a new Libya, ”Bashaga told reporters announcing his proposal. “We will put an end to suffering, tears and blood.”

“Libya will transform from a rentier state into a free market economy,” he added. “We will carry out reforms, reconciliation and reconstruction.”

A former Air Force pilot and businessman, Bashaga served as Interior Minister from 2018 to early this year in the UN-backed government led by Fayez Sarraj, establishing himself as an influential figure in western Libya. He forged ties with Turkey, France and the United States, as well as with Egypt and Russia, which supported his nominal rivals in the intra-Libyan conflict.

The presidential candidate is believed to have ties to armed militias in the western city of Misrata, who played a key role in defending the capital against the 2019 military offensive from the east.

Sarraj’s government resigned after a new transitional government was elected by Libyan delegates in February in Geneva in a UN-mediated negotiation. Bashaga ran for prime minister, but in the end, Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeiba was chosen to head the transitional cabinet.

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The task of the interim government is to bring Libya to national reconciliation and to lead the country through the general elections scheduled for December 24.

Bashaga survived an attack on his motorcade on the 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 Sunday when Seif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son and at one time heir of the late dictator, filed his nomination in the southern city of Sabha. Seif al-Islam, wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, has been in hiding in recent years after being released from a police-run prison in the city of Zintan in June 2017.

On Tuesday, the commander of the self-proclaimed army under the administration in eastern Libya, Khalifa Hifter, announced his proposal. Hifter’s troops launched an offensive in 2019, besieging Tripoli for a year-long campaign to try to take over the Libyan capital. The campaign ultimately failed and Hifter’s forces withdrew. He is also a defendant in at least three separate federal lawsuits in US courts, where the plaintiffs allege that their loved ones were killed or tortured by him.

The influential speaker of the Libyan parliament, Aguila Saleh, joined the race late Wednesday. The 77-year-old headed the country’s House of Representatives, which rose to power in a 2014 election that ended in a contested election. Libya then split into rival administrations in the east and west, and the legislature fled Tripoli to the eastern city of Tobruk after a court ruled it was no longer legal.

The December elections also face other obstacles, including intermittent clashes between armed groups, the deep divide that persists between east and west of Libya, and the presence of thousands of foreign fighters and soldiers.

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ElHennawi reported from Cairo.

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