Give Gaddafi’s son a chance?

Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, is seeking to be elected as Libya’s president. Should this man, representing what remained of his father's political movement after his violent ouster from power, be given a chance in a democratic system?

It seems unlikely that Gaddafi's son could achieve power, with his image being too linked to the violence that tore the country apart in 2011. However, some sought to block him entirely. In 2021, he was disqualified for alleged participation in war crimes during the civil war. That decision was overturned shortly thereafter, allowing him to stand once again.

For many, disqualifying Gaddafi’s son will seem like a prudent move in the interests of democracy, but that opinion in itself is contrary to democracy. In order for democracy to be genuine, you need to give people genuine choices. That necessarily includes choices you may find threatening to democracy itself.

There are valid reasons to think democracy can become a dead end for a nation. Democracy can be suspended in the name of democracy itself. Western governments embraced the suppression of the winning party in Algeria in the 1990s for this reason, triggering a devastating civil war. The US government also maintains this same attitude with regard to Hamas, which it maintained was a terrorist organisation despite it being legitimately elected.

Western regimes like to exploit the idea of democracy and the good feelings of many towards it as a facade for their own uncontested rule, because it is the system vulnerable to their interference. Western leaders discard democracy for a coup and bans targeting opponents, as soon as they are frustrated with the results, until a sufficiently malleable and vulnerable political system is back in place again.

The word “democracy” is repeated by our politicians in the West, but they regard the people as vile and deserving to be cheated rather than served.