tv Inside Story LINKTV November 29, 2021 5:30am-6:01am PST
>> the libyan revolution brought down muammar gaddafi 10 years ago. now his son is running for president. what they say about his chances. and will be election divide or create -- will the election create more divisions in libya? this is "inside story." ♪ welcome to the program. libya's arab spring revolution 10 years ago toppled longtime leader muammar gaddafi.
what followed was a decade of chaos and violence. militias backed by foreign powers including russia and turkey split the country. the u.n. hopes elections next month will help sephora -- help restore stability. muammar gaddafi's son has registered to run for president. he wore a traditional robe and turban as his late father did. he had been out of the public eye for much of the last decade, but in an interview in july he hinted at a presidential run to restore unity to libya. cy fall gaddafi is muammar gaddafi's second son. many libyans saw him as a reformer who advocated for democracy. in 2011 public opinion changed as he took part in a crackdown by his father's regime. he was captured by fighters but eventually released six years later. so i islam gaddafi is still
wanted by the international court for alleged crimes against humanity during the 2011 revolution. human rights watch says libyan authorities must arrest him despite him registering as a presidential candidate. reporter: after years of hiding out of public view, say fell islam gaddafi emerged to apply for president. he was wearing the traditional outfit of southern libya, much like his father was wearing in his famous speech in 2011 when he said he was going to purify the libyan rats, as he called them, who were protesting for freedom and democracy. room by room, he said, street by street he was going to purify these people from the country. safe islam, what does this mean
for him to run for president at this time? he is a very divisive figure. he is also wanted by the international criminal court for crimes against humanity, including attacks on civilians and peaceful protesters. we are already seeing the effect. we are starting to see reaction in western libya. mostly that reaction is coming from a constitutional framework. according to a previous agreement, a constitutional framework has to be agreed upon by the legislative sides. what does that mean? who can run for president, what kind of powers does a president have? these are questions that remain to be solved by the various sides. with saif's appearance back into political view, we are seeing people in western libya -- tribal leaders, civilian leaders, military leaders --
calling for a boycott of these elections until a constitutional framework is agreed-upon. >> the head of libya's presidency council says it does not matter who runs as long as the vote takes place as scheduled on december 24. >> [translated] we are not worried about any particular leader getting elected. on the contrary, there should be a chance given to anyone whose electoral conditions applied, which have been agreed upon by the libyan people. >> let's bring in our guests. in johanna, a professor of political science at qatar university. in istanbul, the director of the siddique institute. and in paris, a journalist and contributor to the middle east monitor.
welcome to the program. after 10 years of silence, saif al-islam in his new york times interview talks about coming back with this are a of mystery -- this aura of mystery, almost like a striptease. now we are seeing the big reveal. he looks like a changed man. he used to favor western, european clothing. we saw him register in very traditional clothes. i know very little has been heard from him from the public. is he a changed man? >> if you take into account the fact he has been for a decade in isolation, completely cut off from the outside world, without his family and associates, he must have changed anyway. he faced a court in 2015.
i think he is a changed man. he has been involved in important reconciliation processes between tribes, just two weeks ago successfully. the libyan public view of him has changed as well because they see some kind of savior because of what has happened in the country. some people think he is a changed man regardless of the
type of ropes he has put onto to come out for the first time publicly live. nastasya: i do want to dig into what kind of a man he is and how that might affect his support, how he might govern if he won. he went to the london school of economics and was considered a reformer. in london in 2003 when asked what libya needed most, he said democracy because his country at the time didn't have real democracy. then in 2011 he backed his father. what happened? >> not reformer, a performer. the theatrics of the last 24 hours confirm that. little has changed. he chose to wear the clothes his father ward 10 years ago when he gave his infamous speech where he threatened to exterminate the population of benghazi. this is not a man that has changed. this is a man who has learned
the tricks of performance. this is someone who understands rule by one man and rule by tribe. libyans have experienced that for many years. he can find friends around the border. i'm sure he will find friends that want to adopt that tribal clothing, but today libya needs a consensus figure, someone that wants to turn that chapter over. wearing the clothes your father wore when you threatened the libyan population is not something that indicates you are a consensus figure, it indicates you are divisive. it is the mother of all ironies that today saif al-islam gaddafi is trying to exercise his democratic rights to pursue a presidential campaign against the very system him and his father chose to brutally put down as a movement during the february 17 revolution. this is a man who chose his father against the libyan people, against his own rhetoric in the years he was at the
embassy, and chose to put down a pro-democracy movement, and now is exploiting them at their most vulnerable. he has had friends. he has not been completely in isolation. in tripoli he was visited by two russians who were later abducted and arrested. when they were interrogated it was realized they were in contact with saif al-islam. he was intrigued by russian capabilities manipulating elections. he has been planning this for some time. nastasya: i want to get to the international connections in a moment. as you say, there was a crackdown. before the crackdown, he had close ties to protest leaders. a lot of the people in that movement. i recall al jazeera spoke to him in 2011, and it struck me how much he had disavowed those people. >> 10 years ago i said, we need
democracy, election. i said this many times. >> it didn't happen and now you have an uprising. >> now you have people who want to split the country. you have people who are terrified. now you have terrorists, militia. the picture is different. you will see what will happen. the libyan people woke up from the shock, realized everything, and are reacting. you will see what happens in the next days. nastasya: what do you make of that rhetoric? >> i think saif al-islam has been talking about dememocracy d human rights and so on for a long time. he had this project, tomorrow's libya, where he had a vision for
a libya that is completely different from the past. he was forward thinking and so on and so forth. he was instrumental in bringing opponents of his father's regime , the leading role. like your guest from istanbul said, i think saif al-islam's downward fall was to make a hard choice between the libyan people and his family or his father, and even though he was talking about democracy and freedom, during this particular interview we just heard, but when it came to the real choice, he cited with his -- he sided with his
father. obviously in my opinion the choice of clothing yesterday when he made his candidacy for the presidential election, in my view wasn't a good one because it links back to images of muammar gaddafi. he also wanted to show the libyan people that he is a changed man. he is wearing the traditional clothes. he is growing a beard. what struck me most was at the end of the session, he did not give a proper speech, but just ordered something from the koran. the way i looked at it is he is telling the libyan people, i am
a changed man and god is my witness that we are going to do things in the right way. nastasya: you say he made a choice. there was that moment in 2011 that felt like a major turning point. saif al-islam gave that nationally televised speech. a lot of people thought he was going to announce he was taking over from his father, but instead he said this. >> [translated] 5 million people will take up arms. we are not egypt, not tunisia. we will all have weapons. blood will flow, rivers of blood in all the cities of libya. nastasya: was that a prediction or a threat? >> it was 100% accurate a prediction. unfortunately it is very true. we have been living it since 2011 until today. if i go back a little bit to
touch what the guest from istanbul said about the russian friends who visited him last year that were abducted and incarcerated in tripoli and interrogated to confess they were russian agents -- i have to clarify this. i investigated this story through tripoli and moscow through contacts in moscow. a nongovernmental organization sent two researchers to libya, the chairman of the counselor of state, to visit saif al-islam. they told the tripoli authority what they were doing. the libyan authority at the time changed their mind because they
wanted to blackmail russia into something else, something different -- having said that, i think we have made too much fuss about the kind of appearance they have made. i don't think there is much to read about this. why should he -- nastasya: ok, mustafa. i do want to bring anis in on the international implications and backing of potential candidates. you mentioned russia. do you think saif is going to have a lot of backing from moscow going forward? >> just to clarify about the russians, at the peak of a civil war when the new york times, bloomberg, reuters all reported on russian mercenaries and snipers firing against
civilians, leaving landmines and destroying and displacing hundreds of thousands, there were two members of russian civil service -- that is an oxymoron in terms. the idea these individuals were walking around -- >> my friend -- nastasya: gentle man i don't want to get too far into these two russian men. i would like to focus on where we are going forward. >> you can keep selling, list off a. i am not buying. i don't think anyone else is buying. "new york times and stanford published those reports online. they are not buying. it has been the case they have been supporting saif al-islam. that's what elections mean. elections don't mean what they meant in 2011. they mean online movements that can be manipulated and social and political movements that can
be manufactured. the idea that popularity is something that can be held in your pocket is a myth. it is fashioned. that's why over the last 24 hours we can see on social media a massive uptick in untraffic and things trickling down into -- just the iconography alone. nastasya: ok. >> and what he chose to wear, it wasn't like that was the only thing left in his closet. nastasya: ok, i want to bring yusuf in. we know there have been a huge amount of international involvement in libya, particularly the last few years. it is evident that saif al-islam blames the u.s. for much of what has happened since 2011. we have seen involvement from turkey, the uae, and russia. who do you think is backing saif al-islam now?
is it moscow? >> i think moscow is one of the major players leading saif al-islam. i think to a large extent the situation will be played inside. your guest from tripoli is right in talking about social media, but this is not just the case of libya. we have seen elections even in the u.k., for instance, when different political parties tried to can -- tried to defeat the conservatives. we saw the reports in the united states about facebook and donald trump selection. these things happen.
they are perceived as "legitimate" tactics to get people elected. the fact that saif al-islam is back and i believe he has a very good chance of winning, because over the last 10 years there has been a revolution against gaddafi. what are the results? there are so many economic and social problems within libya today. the country is almost divided over the last few weeks when the libyan foreign minister was removed from office.
so many people are longing back to the old days of muammar gaddafi, at least in terms of stability and social and economic problems they see. saif al-islam -- stacy safe -- they see saif al-islam gaddafi as someone who has been involved in these policies, especially over the first 10 years of the new millennium. he knows the country well. he worked on so many cases for his father. he has french, british, italian, american involvements, which he can use as bargaining chips. nastasya: i want to bring in mustafa, because i believe saif
al-islam's team has been reaching out to you ahead of his presidential bid. i am curious as to what you make of his chances. i know polling is patchy, but one poll suggested in one southern region 57% of people say they support him. given that libya is such a fragmented country, does not hold true across the country? >> more or less. they have been reaching out to me for consultation issues. i know about different kind of things that have to do with reconciliation among tribes of libya. what we have said about support for him is quite global inside the country. i would give him in the first round 45% to 50%. he would not make it outright and there would be a second round of voting.
that's where he would win. i give you another example. maybe we don't have precise numbers that you could actually refer to, but judging by following social media platforms , you can see it. smaller cities, the southwest of the country, i think his supporters are 65%. the same goes for southern and western parts of tripoli as well. he might not achieve that inside tripoli itself or benghazi, but i do expect him to win given the support he is enjoying.
the russians never actually expressed support to any libyan political figure. nastasya: i do want to move on because we do want to dig in finally to what implications this might have for libya. there is a man we have not yet discussed, the man also running for president. anis, i know many foreign leaders, the united nations very keen for these elections to take place as scheduled. could they potentially create more division then create stability going forward? >> absolutely. the revolutionary camp. we have a mexican standoff. that is a terrible scenario.
the perception of the elections as they are not going to be free and fair. we are five weeks away from elections. not a single candidate has come out and said -- saif al-islam stitched together multiple verses of the koran so they are not intelligible. with five weeks left until elections and not having spoken to your people, people don't believe the process will be free and fair and credible. if that is the case, i don't think they will respect the outcome. even if someone came out with 90% or 80% or the 40% mustapha mentioned, they are not consensus figures. the only way to go through that is the reconciliation process. i don't believe any of those
candidates today have the guts to do it. nastasya: it is going to be a controversial few weeks. thanks to all of our guests, yusuf, anis, and was stuff on -- and mustafa. thank you, too for watching. you can see this program any time by going to al jazeera.com or our facebook page. you can also join the conversation on twitter. from the whole team in doha, goodbye for now.