MOGADISHU – Somalia is expected to hold its long-delayed presidential election on Sunday, ending the tangled electoral process that heightened tensions in the country when the president’s term expired last year with no successor in office.
Authorities have registered 39 presidential candidates, a list that includes incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, two former presidents, a former prime minister, several top officials and even a journalist. The field includes a woman, Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam, a lawmaker who once served as Somalia’s foreign minister.
The vote comes amid heightened uncertainty as anti-government Islamist extremist group al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa nation.
In recent months, al-Shabab has repeatedly tested the defense of the Halane military camp, which is protected by African Union peacekeepers, with mortar shells and weapon attacks. A suicide bombing on Wednesday killed at least four, including two government soldiers, at a checkpoint near the heavily fortified airport area where lawmakers will meet on Sunday to elect a new president.
The vote is 15 months behind schedule and the Somali authorities faced a deadline of May 17 to hold the vote at risk of losing vital funding from international donors.
Polls in Somalia are unpredictable and it seems Mohamed – also known as Farmaajo – faces an uphill battle for re-election. Mohamed is locked in a power struggle with his Prime Minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, for control of the government. Roble isn’t running for president, but behind the scenes, he and other former leaders could play a crucial role in the outcome of the vote.
“A lot of issues are at stake. The most important thing is to overthrow the incumbent and unite all candidates against him, even though he is aware that unlike his predecessors, his chances of re-election are minimal,” said Mohamed Mohamud, a Mogadishu-based political scientist.
“There are disturbing phenomena that the incumbent is unable to secure the necessary votes for his re-election, but he is determined to skew the results for his favorite opposition candidate and try to prevent certain candidates from winning, even if they are ahead in the polls lie. ” he said.
Despite its ongoing insecurity, Somalia has seen peaceful leadership changes every four years since 2000, and it has the distinction of having Africa’s first democratically elected president, who peacefully resigned in 1967, Aden Abdulle Osman.
Somalia began to fall apart in 1991 as warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned against each other. Years of conflict and al-Shabab attacks as well as famine have shaken the country of around 12 million people.
The goal of direct, one-person, one-vote elections in Somalia remains unattainable. It should happen this time. Instead, the federal and state governments agreed to another “indirect election” with lawmakers elected by community leaders — delegates from powerful clans — in each member state.
All 329 MPs from both chambers of Parliament are expected to vote in a secret ballot on Sunday. To win in the first round, a candidate must receive two-thirds of the votes, or 219 ballots. Observers expect a second or even third ballot for the four top candidates.
In addition to Mohamed, the main candidates include former Presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, as well as Said Dani, the current President of the Puntland regional state.
Somali elections are notoriously corrupt, and there have been widespread allegations of bribery, beginning with lawmaker selection.
Mohamed’s four-year term expired in February 2021, but he remained in office after the lower house of parliament approved a two-year extension of his mandate and that of the federal government, drawing anger from Senate leaders and criticism from the international community.
The delay in the election sparked a shootout in April 2021 between pro-government soldiers and others angry at the president’s what they saw as an illegal extension of his mandate.
Under pressure, Mohamed reversed the term extension and instructed the prime minister to work with regional state leaders to outline a new roadmap for the vote.
Whoever wins the election faces the pressing problem of insecurity as al-Shabab militants have made territorial gains in recent months. The new president will also need to help ease tensions between regional states competing for limited resources, analysts say.
“We hope that the next president will be someone who can put the interests of the nation ahead of his interests and lead the country to peace and prosperity,” said Farhan Isak Yusuf, deputy executive director of Somali Public Agenda, a Mogadishu-based political think tank and research group. “The decision rests in the hands of legislators who are completely independent and loyal to no particular group (but) are often manipulated by money.”
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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/05/12/somalia-set-to-elect-new-president-amid-growing-insecurity/ Somalia will elect a new president amid growing insecurity