Hundreds of Somali parliamentarians will gather in a heavily fortified airport hangar on Sunday to elect a new president in a vote needed to ensure the impoverished, conflict-torn nation continues to receive foreign financial aid.
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The vote has been delayed time and time again by disputes within the government, but it must take place this month for a $400 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) program to stay on track.
It takes place during the worst drought in the Horn of Africa nation in four decades and against a depressingly familiar backdrop of violence due to a war by extremist rebels, infighting between security forces and clan rivalries.
On Wednesday, a suicide bombing claimed by al-Shabaab militants wounded seven people during political rallies near the hangar where parliamentarians are to meet. On Friday, fighters from a Sufi Muslim group battled government forces for the state capital of Galmudug.
Incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as “Farmaajo” for his alleged love of Italian cheese, appears unlikely to win re-election after losing support in last month’s parliamentary vote, analysts said.
impossible popular vote
That leaves two former presidents among the favourites: Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (2009-2012) and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (2012-2017).
The head of the semi-autonomous Puntland region, Said Abdulahi Deni, also has a good chance, analysts say.
The 36 candidates include only one woman, former Foreign Minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam. Some 329 parliamentarians from both chambers are eligible to vote.
African Union peacekeepers will guard the site during the two or three rounds of voting that many Somalis say are traditionally influenced more by bribery than politics.
Ahmed took over as president of a Western-backed transitional government in 2009, established the national army and helped drive al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu.
The other former president, Mohamud, was a peace activist and academic. Both were accused of failing to stop corruption.
Despite being riven by civil war since 1991, Somalia has had relatively peaceful leadership changes every four years since 2000, although the last one was delayed from 2021.
Widespread insecurity means that a popular vote remains impossible for Somalia’s estimated 15 million people.
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