MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia’s lawmakers will meet Sunday to elect the country’s president in the capital, Mogadishu, which is under lockdown measures intended to prevent deadly attacks by militants.
Some 36 candidates are vying for the presidency, including current leader Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and two of his predecessors: Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Puntland regional state leader Said Dani is also seen as a favourite. The wide field of candidates includes a woman, Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam, a lawmaker who once served as Somalia’s foreign minister.
The vote is taking place inside a tent in an airport hangar inside the Halane military camp, which is protected by African Union peacekeepers. The voting process is expected to last until Sunday night, especially if a second and third round of voting is needed. To win in the first round, a candidate must get two-thirds of the votes, or 219 ballots.
To prevent extremist violence from disrupting the elections, Somali police have placed Mogadishu, the scene of regular attacks by the Islamic rebel group al-Shabab, under a lockdown that began at 9:00 pm on Saturday. It means most residents must stay home until the lockdown is lifted Monday morning, according to police.
“Movements are totally prohibited, including traffic, businesses, schools and even people,” police spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan said.
Analysts say current President Mohamed, who is also known as Farmaajo due to his appetite for Italian cheese, faces an uphill battle to be re-elected. No sitting president has ever won re-election in the Horn of Africa nation, where rival clans battle intensely for political power.
The goal of a direct election of one person, one vote in Somalia, a country of some 12 million people, remains elusive in large part because of widespread extremist violence. Authorities had planned a direct election this time, but instead the federal government and states agreed to another “indirect election,” with lawmakers chosen by community leaders, delegates from powerful clans, in each member state.
The 329 lawmakers from both houses of parliament will elect the president by secret ballot.
“We urge parliamentarians to vote conscientiously for the candidate they believe offers the policies and leadership qualities to promote peace, stability, prosperity and good governance for years to come,” the Assistance Mission said. the UN in Somalia and others in the international community. he said in a statement Saturday night.
Despite its persistent insecurity, Somalia has had peaceful leadership changes every four years since 2000, and has the distinction of having Africa’s first democratically elected president to resign peacefully, Aden Abdulle Osman in 1967.
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 term and that of the federal government, drawing fury from leaders of the Senate and criticism from the international community.
The delay in the elections triggered an exchange of fire in April 2021 between soldiers loyal to the government and others angry at what they saw as an illegal extension of the president’s mandate.
Somalia began to unravel in 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and attacks by al-Shabab, along with famine, have ravaged the country that has a long and strategic coastline along the Indian Ocean.
Ordinary Somalis await the outcome of Sunday’s elections with bated breath.
“Today is a historic day that will determine who will rule the country for the next four years. We pray for a president who can lead Somalia out of its current situation into a promising and prosperous future,” said Mogadishu resident Abdi Mohamed. “Allah knows best and we ask for his guidance and mercy.”
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