Acting Libyan Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah has registered as a candidate to run in next month’s presidential elections, according to reports on Sunday.
Libya’s first direct presidential poll, scheduled for December 24, comes as the United Nations seeks to end a decade of violence in the oil-rich country since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Gaddafi in 2011.
Dbeibah signed documents at the High National Electoral Commission (HNEC) in the capital Tripoli, in images broadcast live by state television the day before the registration deadline.
A wealthy businessman from the western port city of Misrata, the 62-year-old political newcomer was appointed interim prime minister in February in a UN-led process to guide the country towards legislative and presidential elections.
Doubts remained as to whether he would run for office, but on Thursday he submitted a declaration of assets – one of the prerequisites for potential presidential candidates.
Last week Dbeibah said he would run for president if that is what the Libyan people want. He also rejected election laws passed by the eastern-based House of Representatives last month, saying they were designed to only suit certain people.
Libyan parliament speaker Aguila Saleh, eastern coup leader Khalifa Haftar and Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, son of the late Libyan leader, also ran for president.
Gaddafi is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes, while many residents of western Libya look down on Haftar after his year-long assault on Tripoli, accusing the military commander of seeking to establish a military dictatorship.
The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) reported that Haftar’s failed offensive on the capital Tripoli involved a pattern of violence and the use of mines by retreating forces that injured civilians, which is a war crime when used indiscriminately.
Haftar’s offensive, backed by Egypt, France, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Russia, collapsed in June when militias supporting the government in Tripoli, with Turkish backing, took the top.
Pro-Haftar forces still control much of eastern and southern Libya, and some analysts have expressed skepticism about the chances of free and fair elections.
Almost three million Libyans – out of a total population of around seven million – have so far registered to vote.
Presidential and legislative elections were scheduled for December 24, but in early October, parliament split the election dates by postponing legislative elections until January.
The road to the polls was marked by disputes over the constitutional basis of the ballot and the powers to be conferred on whoever wins.
In September, Saleh ratified a controversial election law criticized for circumventing due process and promoting a Haftar candidacy.
Saleh on Saturday dismissed the controversy surrounding the move and said the rules were “tailor-made” to suit no one.
Hundreds of Libyans demonstrated in Tripoli on Friday against “war criminals” running for president next month.
Protesters stamped posters of Haftar and Seif al-Islam, expressing their anger at the controversial electoral law.