The younger Qaddafi, 45, “enjoys the support of major tribes in the country,” said family spokesman Basem Al-Hashimi Al-Soul of the Qaddafi-supporting Supreme Council of Libyan Tribes. He is expected to publicly announce his candidacy soon.
Qaddafi was captured and detained by the Zintan militia in southern Libya in November 2011, after the revolt against his father. He was released in July 2016 and a year later was pardoned by the government in Tobruk led by military strongman Khalifa Haftar.
His exact whereabouts since then are unknown, but he is thought to have met local tribes and supporters of his father’s regime to discuss running for the presidency.
Qaddafi’s supporters are confident that he will return to the political scene, Mohammad Gomaa, an analyst at the Ahram Center for Strategic Studies in Cairo, told Arab News. Pressure from these supporters for Qaddafi’s release indicated that the old regime had growing political influence, he said.
However, Paul Sullivan, a Middle East expert in Washington, cast doubt on whether Qaddafi would be able to unify Libya’s factions, who derive their legitimacy from their roles in the 2011 revolution and afterward.
“The Qaddafis were some of the most divisive people in the history of Libya. There are lots of Libyans who still harbor deep resentment and anger, and fear, toward the ousted leader,” he told Arab News.
Nevertheless, events could not be predicted and may hold “lots of surprises,” he said.
Haftar, the military commander whose forces control large parts Libya, has also hinted that he would run for the presidency in next year’s elections. He said he would “listen to the will of the people.”