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Libya's ex-interior minister registers to run for president

Bashagha joins a growing list of candidates that so far includes renegade leader Khalifa Hifter, eastern-based parliament speaker Aguila Saleh and the son of late dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP via Getty Images

Former Libyan Interior Minister Fathi Bashagha has registered to run in the planned presidential elections next month, joining an increasingly crowded field of candidates seeking the North African country’s highest post. 

Bashagha had served as interior minister since 2018 in the Tripoli-based, internationally recognized Government of National Accord, whose militias fought the Libyan National Army for control of the oil-rich country before a UN-supported cease-fire halted the conflict in October 2020. The current interim unity government, known as the Government of National Unity, consists of a prime minister and three-member presidential council and took power in March following UN-led talks in Geneva. 

“Libya will not go back to pre-2011. We will build a new Libya,” Bashagha told reporters, referencing the NATO-backed uprising that toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi a decade ago. 

“Libya will turn from a rentier state into a free-market economy,” he added, according to the Associated Press. “We will be embracing reform, reconciliation and the reconstruction.”

 

Bashagha, a former fighter pilot and businessman, survived an assassination attempt in February after his motorcade reportedly came under fire as it drove through Tripoli. That same month, he was a favorite to win the contest for prime minister of the UN-backed interim government, but narrowly lost his bid to Misrata-based businessman Abdulhamid al-Dbeibah. 

This time around, Libya’s former security chief will be running against controversial former Libyan National Army commander Khalifa Hifter, eastern-based parliament speaker Aguila Saleh ​​and former Prime Minister Ali Zaidan. The field also included Saif al-Islam, the son of Gadhafi who is wanted for alleged crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. Libyan Prime Minister Dbeibah is also expected to join the presidential race despite having promised otherwise after joining the interim government. 

There is mounting uncertainty over whether the elections will proceed as planned. With just weeks to go, Libya’s rival entities have yet to agree on a constitutional and legal basis for the presidential and parliamentary polls, which were originally both scheduled for Dec. 24. 

Human rights groups have also questioned whether war-torn Libya can hold inclusive elections free of coercion and intimidation. Last week, the UN secretary-general, the United States and other world powers threatened sanctions on anyone who obstructs the vote. 

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