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Gaddafi sympathizers at the heart of the presidential conflict between Haftar and Bachagha (Analysis)

AA / Istanbul

After the release of Saa’di Gaddafi and the approval to hand over the remains of the body of his late father, is Bachagha working to gain the support of supporters of the former regime in the next presidential election?

Saa’di’s acquittal is a prelude to the grace that will be offered to his brother, Seif al-Islam, to open wide the doors for him to run for President.

The handing over by Bachagha and the notables of Misrata of the remains of the late Libyan leader to his tribe in Sirte came just days after Haftar’s militias exposed the parts that murdered a senior officer among supporters of the former. diet.

The release of Saadi Gaddafi, son of the late former Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, after his imprisonment for several years, is an indicator that the country is heading for profound changes that surpass the current traditional conflict between East and East. Where is.

Indeed, Saa’di Kadhafi (48 years old), who is accused of having perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity was exonerated and released on September 5, and not released in favor of a presidential pardon at the end of a final judgment issued against him.

However, the Presidential Council has announced that the recent releases of political prisoners in Libya are part of the national reconciliation that officially began on September 6.

This confirms that Saa’di’s release took place in a “political framework”, but was stamped with a judicial seal, which clears him of all criminal charges against him. and thus restores him to his political rights, including that of running for the presidential election, especially since the Presidential Council implicitly qualified him as a “political prisoner”.

– Seif al-Islam on the way to running for president

The release of Saa’di Gaddafi makes it likely that national reconciliation will also affect his brother Seif al-Islam, whose information of his probable presidential candidacy on December 24 was leaked by an electronic site close to him (Le Africa information portal), on September 1, which marks the 52nd anniversary of the coup d’état committed by his late father, Muammar Gaddafi, against King Idriss Senoussi in September 1969.

Seif al-Islam is sentenced to death on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity by a court in Tripoli, just as the Military Prosecutor General has issued an arrest warrant for him, on August 5, in addition to the fact that he is requested by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for similar charges.

However, granting him a presidential pardon or clearing him of the crimes addressed to him, arguing that he is a political opponent, will be likely to open wide the doors for him to run for the next one. presidential, scheduled before the end of the current year.

This does not seem to be ruled out despite opposition from many parties, foremost among which are Khalifa Haftar and his political ally Aguila Salah, speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, who publicly displays his hostility to Seif al-Islam’s candidacy for the election. presidential ballot.

Aguila Salah believes, to justify his opposition, that an “individual condemned by the International Criminal Court to have committed war crimes does not have the right to stand as a candidate for the presidency of the Libyan state”.

It should be noted, however, that the ICC has yet to issue a judgment against Seif al-Islam, which means that Aguila Salah’s position is more political than legal.

On the other hand, several countries are exerting pressure in favor of the candidacy of Gaddafi son for the Presidential election and the return of the former regime to power, in particular, Russia.

–The voices of the Gaddafi: a major issue

The slogan of the next step is “National Reconciliation” but behind this slogan is a desire from the western region of the country, in particular, the notables of the city of Misrata to withdraw the card from the support of the former regime of the hands of Haftar, so that the latter does not manipulate it in his favor during the next presidential election.

The main names who would run for president are Khalifa Haftar Seif al-Islam Kadhafi and Fethi Bachagha, former Minister of the Interior in the government of National Entente.

In the event that Gaddafi does not manage to run as a candidate, the competition will be limited to Haftar and Bachagha, who comes from Misrata, the third largest city in the country, in terms of number of inhabitants, after Tripoli the capital and Benghazi, but which remains the most powerful militarily and in terms of influence in the western region.

Given the fact that Gaddafi’s supporters constitute an electorate with certain weight and who are able to sway the race in favor of one party to the detriment of another, the competition to obtain the support of this category has reached its peak between the Haftar and Bachagha camps.

At the beginning of September this month, Haftar’s militias unveiled the truth about the assassination of Colonel Massoud Dhaoui, one of the main military leaders of the Werchfena (west) tribe loyal, on the one hand, to Gaddafi son, but ally also to Haftar. Dgaoui was killed on May 23, 2019 in the attack on Tripoli.

This truth was a persistent request made by the Werchfena tribe for nearly two years, although Haftar’s ministers alleged in 2019 that Dhaoui had been killed on one of the front lines during the fighting, before recently reporting a another completely different version, with a confession from one of the participants in the assassination.

The confession confirmed that the instructions for the elimination of Dhaoui had come directly from Mohcen al-Kani, a field leader of the Caniettes militias who support Haftar,
Regardless of the details of this scandalous affair, the main objective of laying bare the ins and outs and the names of the eight assassins and participants in the elimination of Dhaoui, is to secure the support of the Werchfen tribe for Haftar during of the next presidential election.

However, Bachagha reacted energetically to this measure by welcoming a delegation from the Khedhedfa tribe to Misrata (200 km west of Tripoli) and notified them, in the presence of the town’s notables, of his agreement to hand them over to them. remains of Muammar Gaddafi and his son al-Mouaatacim.

It is expected that the remains of the Libyan leader will be buried in his hometown of Sirte (450 km east of Tripoli), which could make his grave a place of visit by his supporters and thus place Haftar’s militias face to face. to a dilemma.

Indeed, Haftar’s militias control Sirte, which is located on the front line with the forces of the Libyan army, and the ban on the burial of Muammar Gadhafi’s remains in the city, would make relations with sympathizers of the old regime strained, and would put the retired general at risk of losing their support in the elections.

However, approval of the burial would result in Gaddafi sympathizers flocking to the city from all sides, weakening the control of Haftar’s militias over this strategic city.

The race for the presidency of Libya started, albeit informally, between three main streams. But Haftar and Bachagha are trying to glean the voices of supporters of the old regime if they manage to reach the second round of the elections, the very holding of which is in doubt.

If Seif al-Islam were to run for President, it would mix the cards and change the nature of alliances, as the logic of politics teaches that “there is no permanent enemy, no permanent friend but rather permanent interests ”.

When the Head of the Libyan Government of National Union, Abdelhamid Dbeibah, was questioned about the candidacy of Gaddafi son for the presidential election, he retorted with a response that could be interpreted differently, indicating that “Seif al-Islam is a citizen Libyan, member of an important tribe in Libya, and I have no objection to a citizen, who has no legal problems, to stand as a candidate ”.

On the one hand, Dbeibah does not oppose the candidacy of Seif al-Islam but conditions this by the fact that the candidate does not have “legal problems”, which is not yet available in his case, unless the Presidential Council grants him a pardon, within the framework of National Reconciliation and with the encouragement of Russia.

As the date of December 24 approaches, each party is sharpening its weapons and working to bring down all its cards within the framework of the circle of difficult and sometimes unnatural alliances, in order to be able to infiltrate the areas of influence of the opponents and supporters of the old regime are now at the heart of this conflict.

* Translated from Arabic by Hatem Kattou

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