In the midst of crisis and civil war, Libya is bracing to hold presidential elections next year. Since being freed from jail this past summer, second son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is being posited as a potential favorite for the post. Sharing his thoughts on the prospect of a member of the Gaddafi family returning to power is specialist David Otto.
David Otto: This is a man who has gone through a political branding mill, so to speak, and he understands very much what it takes to move Libya forward, to a modern government system by the people, for the people and a system that would be void of interference in the internal affairs of Libya. I think Saif Islam, having spent a lot of time in jail, he has taken time to reflect on what really went wrong. And he now has the opportunity, perhaps, to have another go if the people of Libya really choose to elect him as the next president.
Sputnik: How much support does he have?
David Otto: In terms of support, Saif Islam is somebody who is aware of the causes of credibility. He knows very well that it is the people of Libya that count. He also knows that a lot of Libyans who hold the power to vote remain the silent majority, and they continue to suffer the most from what Libya has become after his father was murdered. He has managed at this very early stage to win almost 80% of the union of tribal council members — and you are very much aware that Libya has about 140 tribes that make up Libya. Even before Gaddafi came to power, which is
Sputnik: How is it that he's been able to gain this support? What exactly has he been doing, and what will he continue to do to try to unite all of the different tribes in Libya and bring unity to the country?
David Otto: What Saif Islam has been able to do is to spend a lot of time to understand that in order for any president, or for anybody to have full control over Libya — he said it before, already in 2011 — he said that in order for anybody to have firm control over Libya, they have to be able to have a firm control and abide in the interests of the tribal councils. He has been able to put envoys on the ground to talk about the possibilities of having a unified Libya. He understands that there is the Government of National Accord in Tripoli, and then he also has the challenge of the Libyan National Army, under Khalifa Haftar. So, what Saif Islam has been doing is to garner more support from some of these tribes that switch sides when things hit the fan. He's managed to do that. A lot of Libyans are now fed up after six years of thinking that the new GNA government, which is UN-backed, would be able to create stability. But now there's a period of disillusionment among a lot of these tribes, and they then look at the way that Gaddafi's father ran Libya and think that was far better. Because of that, he has actually been able to bring a lot of support, because they see him as the only person that could actually unite most of these tribes.
Sputnik: How is the West, namely the United States and the EU likely react to Saif Gaddafi, especially if he does win these elections?
David Otto: It is going to be interesting. What I think is that it's going to be a somewhat confusing and somewhat unbelievable scenario for the West. But Gaddafi's son understands that in a democratically held election, it is the reaction of Libyans that will count to Saif Islam, and no-one else really matters. Libya, of course, will need foreign support, and I guess from many countries, including the African Union, that has the capacity to lift Libya from the turmoil, even if Libya is deserted by the European Union. I think if Saif Islam wins and succeeds in bringing Libya together, and halts
The views and opinions expressed by David Otto are those of the specialist and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.