Speaker of Libya’s parliament says he will run for president

Aguila Saleh joins son of Libya’s former dictator and a controversial military commander in race for country’s highest office.

Aguila Saleh has led the country's House of Representatives since 2014 [File: Costas Baltas/ Reuters]

The speaker of Libya’s eastern-based parliament has said he will run for the presidency in next month’s election.

Aguila Saleh’s announcement on Wednesday follows that of several other prominent Libyans including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of Libya’s former dictator, and Khalifa Haftar, the powerful military commander. Both men are highly divisive figures accused of war crimes.

In a video statement, Saleh said that he would seek to “turn the page on conflict, look towards the future” and launch a process of national reconciliation, which he said was a “pillar of a stable nation”.

“Public voting is the only source of legitimacy for any authority,” the 77-year-old added.

Libya has been racked by chaos since a NATO-backed uprising in 2011 toppled longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was later killed.

The oil-rich nation has for years been split between a government in the east, backed by Haftar, and a United Nations-recognised administration in Tripoli, aided by Western-based Libyan militias.

Each side has also had the support of mercenaries and foreign forces from Turkey, Russia and Syria, and different regional powers.

The presidential election on December 24 is part of a UN bid to end a decade of conflict.

But disputes persist over the election rules, including who should be eligible, the schedule and the vote’s legal basis, raising doubts about whether it will take place at all.

The only law issued for holding the election is one Saleh issued in September, which critics said was done without a full vote or proper quorum.

The critics said key provisions seem designed to let Saleh and his eastern ally Haftar run without risk of losing their positions if they failed to win.

Defenders of the law say it was properly passed through parliament and accuse its critics of trying to delay or derail Libya’s first election since 2014.

That vote had created the House of Representatives, but it was contested, and the lawmaking body fled from Tripoli to the eastern city of Tobruk after a court ruled it was no longer legitimate.

Saleh, who has headed the House of Representatives since 2014, was sanctioned by the United States and European Union after he refused to recognise the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.

The sanctions were lifted early this year as the peace process developed, including the establishment of a new unity government and a path to elections.

Source: News Agencies