Will Libya commander Haftar run in December’s election?

“He is hoping the elections will secure him a political victory after his military defeat,” said international relations professor Miloud el-Hajj.

Haftar has emerged as a key player during the decade of violence that followed the 2011 overthrow of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The commander has battled armed groups and built a solid base of support among eastern Libya’s influential tribes – as well as neighbouring Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Russia.

But two years since his Libyan National Army launched its offensive to overthrow a Turkey-backed unity government in Tripoli, the landscape is extremely different.

A formal truce last October set in motion a UN-led process that led to the creation of an interim government tasked with unifying the country’s divided institutions, launching reconstruction efforts, and preparing for the December vote.

Haftar kept a low profile throughout the talks, but in recent weeks he has made a comeback with public rallies and pledges to build three new towns and thousands of housing units for the families of “martyrs”.

“His tone and language have changed… He has dropped his military discourse” in favour of pledges to improve living conditions, said el-Hajj.

‘Facing defiance’

Haftar built his power base around Libya’s second city of Benghazi, the eastern cradle of the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed Gaddafi.

He found allies among the region’s powerful tribes that provided much of the troops for Haftar’s various military offensives.

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