By Ali Shuaib
(Reuters) – Abdel Hakim Belhaj, one of Libya’s most powerful militia leaders, is quitting to devote himself full-time to politics, an aide said on Monday, in a vote of confidence for the fragile transition from rebellion to democracy.
Belhaj, a former Islamist militant who helped topple former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in last year’s revolt, is to resign his post as head of the Tripoli Military Council and set up a political party, his aide said.
His party is unlikely to be able to register in time for Libya’s first ever election on June 19, for a transitional assembly which will draft a constitution.
But with Islamists gaining in influence since Gaddafi’s overthrow, Belhaj’s party will be well placed to compete in fresh elections to be scheduled by the new assembly.
“He will announce his political party,” Anis Al-Sharif, head of Belhaj’s office, told Reuters, adding that Belhaj had sent a letter to the ruling National Transitional Council on his resignation.
“He also feels that the revolutionaries have done their job to oust the Gaddafi regime and now it’s time to rebuild Libya, to move to a political state,” he said.
The military council will meet to elect a replacement for Belhaj, the aide said.
(Reporting by Ali Shuaib; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Michael Roddy)