For the position: President of Libya (ideally democratically elected)
Age: 36 (born June 25, 1972)
Parents: The second-eldest son of Col. Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, and first by his second wife.
Wife and kids: Little is known about Saif al-Islam's private life.
Education: Bachelor of Science from Al Fateh University, Libya's largest university; MBA from IMADEC in Vienna; PhD from London School of Economics.
Net worth: Information about the personal funds for any of the Gaddafi family is unknown by even the nation's central bank, but it's rumored that they use public funds as private funds.
AMMAN, Jordan — Although it could be another decade or more before succession issues have to be addressed in Libya, Saif al-Islam Muammar Al-Gaddafi is best positioned among his father's sons to take the helm, experts say.
Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi (also known as Colonel Gaddafi), the de facto leader of Libya since a 1969 coup, is in his mid-60s and going strong.
But in the past four years, Saif al-Islam, the second-eldest son of Col. Gaddafi, and first by his second wife, Saif al-Islam has no official role in government, has come into the limelight internationally because of his interventions in Libyan foreign affairs.
And while he has repeatedly mentioned his intentions to retire from such activity and allow democratic elections to determine Libya’s next leader, he hs also made seemingly every effort to stay in the political sphere.
Additionally, his father hints that he may tap his family for a successor, and Saif al-Islam remains the most likely pick, say most Libya analysts.
He’s managed to build an image for himself as a reformist, gained considerable international experience as a representative for Libya, and unlike many of his siblings, he’s avoided any major scandals.
Still, if he does succeed his father, he may struggle to build a coalition to run for government and his disconnect with the Libyan people may prove problematic.
“If one looks at Saif al-Islam as a potential successor versus any Gaddafi’s other sons or daughter … Saif al-Islam is by far the most likely to continue the socio-economic reform process,” says Ronald Bruce St John, author of six books about Libya.
Aside from spending years outside of Libya for his schooling, Saif al-Islam has remained relatively sheltered. Many who’ve met him say he tends to come off as an aloof intellectual and somewhat isolated from Libyan society.
“He’s in a sense a little bit of an outsider even though he thinks of himself as the ultimate insider,” says Dirk Vandewalle, a professor of government at Dartmouth University. “He’s never had anybody challenge him since he was a child because of whose son he is and I think in a sense that hasn’t served him very well so far.”
He is chairman of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, established in 2003, and notably acted as an intermediary between Libya and the European Union during negotiations to release the Bulgarian nurses accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV. After the release of the nurses, it was also Saif al-Islam who publicly announced that the nurses had been tortured.
He has also campaigned for a new Libyan constitution that would allow for free media and an independent central bank.
While Saif al-Islam contends that he will support democratic elections to determine the next leader of Libya, Vandewalle says that his father made similar comments 30 years ago and remarks like these are largely crafted with a Western audience in mind.
The real challenge for Saif al-Islam could prove gaining a strong coalition once his father is gone. While he has much international experience, he has much less dealing with the tribes and the military in Libya. Without the support of both groups, analysts say he may struggle to gain or hold onto power.
Back to Sons of the Desert