Somali lawmakers have gathered to elect a new president

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Mogadishu, Somalia – Somali lawmakers are meeting in the capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday to elect the country’s president, who is under lockdown to prevent deadly militant attacks.

About 36 candidates are vying for the presidency, including incumbent leader Mohammad Abdullahi Mohammad and his two predecessors, Hassan Sheikh Mohammad and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Saeed Dani, leader of the regional state of Puntland, is also seen running ahead. Among the large field of candidates was a woman, Fawzia Youssef Haji Adam, a lawmaker who once served as Somalia’s foreign minister.

Voting takes place inside a tent in the airport hangar inside the Helen military camp, guarded by African Union peacekeepers. The voting process is expected to last until the end of Sunday, especially if second- and third-round ballots are required. To win the first round, a candidate must receive two-thirds of the vote or 219 ballots.

To discourage extremist violence to disrupt the election, Somali police have set foot in Mogadishu on a regular offensive by the Islamic rebel group al-Shabab under a lockdown that began at 9pm on Saturday. According to police, most residents must stay home until the lockdown on Monday morning.

Police spokesman Abdifatah Adan Hassan said, “Traffic, business, schools and even people are completely banned.”

Analysts say incumbent President Mohamed – also known as Pharmazo because of his appetite for Italian cheese – is facing a bitter battle for re-election. No incumbent president has ever won a re-election in the Horn of Africa, where rival factions are vying for political power.

In Somalia, a country of about 12 million people, the goal of direct, one-person-one-vote elections has been largely elusive due to extreme violence. Authorities planned a direct election this time, but instead, the federal government and the states agreed to another “indirect election” with lawmakers – representatives of powerful groups – elected by community leaders in each member state.

The 329 lawmakers in both houses of parliament will elect the president by secret ballot.

“We urge members of parliament to exercise their conscience by choosing a candidate who believes that policy and leadership qualities lead to peace, stability, prosperity and the advancement of good governance in the years ahead,” the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia and others in the international community said in a statement late Saturday. Is.

Despite continued insecurity, Somalia has seen peaceful changes of leadership every four years since 2000, and Aden Abdul Osman, Africa’s first democratically elected president, had the honor of peacefully resigning in 1967.

Mohammed’s four-year term ended in February 2021, but he remained in office after the lower house of parliament approved his mandate and the federal government’s two-year extension, following anger from Senate leaders and criticism from the international community.

The delay in the vote led to a gunfight between government loyalists and others in April 2021, which they saw as an illegal extension of the president’s order.

Somalia began to disintegrate in 1991, when warlords ousted dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and al-Shabaab attacks, including famine, have torn apart a long, strategic coastal country along the Indian Ocean.

Ordinary Somalis are waiting for Sunday’s election results.

“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 take Somalia from its current situation to a committed and prosperous future, “said Abdi Mohammed, a Mogadishu resident. “Allah knows best, and we seek His guidance and mercy.”

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