Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has officially signed up to be a candidate in Libya's December 24 presidential election

The son of Muammar Gaddafi had registered as a candidate on November 14. Videos had been posted online showing him completing the paperwork while wearing traditional Libyan clothes and reciting passages from the Koran.

A statement from Libya's High National Electoral Commission had confirmed his registration. Prime Minister Abdul Hamid Dbeibah and Aguila Saleh, leader of Libya's parliament, were among the other contenders for the presidency.

The election would be the first direct presidential election in Libya.

An arrest warrant for crimes against humanity

In 2011, soon after the downfall of Muammar Gaddafi, a warrant for the arrest of his son had been issued by the International Criminal Court on charges of crimes against humanity. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi had never been extradited, but the outstanding warrant could interfere with his presidential aspirations.

Soon after the fall of the dictatorship, the slain ruler's son had been seized by a militia while attempting to flee across the country's southern border. A trial in Libya had ended in a death sentence for Saif al-Islam, but he would later see the judgment reversed after spending six years in prison.

Lately, he had mostly avoided publicity, granting a rare interview to the New York Times this year.

Nostalgia for life under Gaddafi

Speaking to New York Times reporter Robert F. Worth, Saif al-Islam said disappointment with Libya's current leaders had caused people to share a nostalgia for life under his father's dictatorship.

"There's no money, no security. There's no life here," he told Worth. "It's more than a failure. It's a fiasco." Worth saw similarities between the message of Gaddafi's Green Movement and Trump-era populism in the United States.

An election victory for Saif al-Islam would lift the spirits of Arab opponents of democracy and would embarrass the United States, which had supported the overthrow of the dictatorship, Worth said.

Russia would welcome a Saif al-Islam victory

Worth said Russia would be glad to see Saif al-Islam win the presidency. Russian soldiers and mercenaries were present in Libya, Worth noted, adding that Moscow had a history of supporting autocratic leaders in the region.