Hundreds of Somali lawmakers will meet on Sunday in a heavy-duty airport hangar to elect a new president to ensure the poor and conflict-torn nation continues to receive foreign financial aid.
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The vote has been repeatedly delayed due to wrangling within the government, but for the $400 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) program to be held this month to stay on track.
It takes place during the Horn of Africa country’s worst drought in four decades and against a hopelessly familiar backdrop of war-caused violence by extremist insurgents, fighting between security forces and clan rivalry.
On Wednesday, a suicide bomb claimed by al-Shabaab militants injured seven people during political rallies near the hangar where lawmakers would gather. On Friday, fighters from a Sufi Muslim group battled government forces for the capital of Galmudug state.
Analysts said incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed – known as “Pharmazo” for his iconic love of Italian cheese – is unlikely to win re-election after losing support in last month’s parliamentary vote.
popular vote impossible
This leaves two former presidents in the forefront: Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (2009–2012) and Hassan Sheikh Mohammed (2012–2017).
Analysts say the head of Puntland’s semi-autonomous region, Abdullahi Denny, also has a good chance.
The 36 candidates include only one woman, former Foreign Minister Fauzia Yousuf Adam. Some 329 MPs from both houses are eligible to vote.
African Union peacekeepers will guard the site during two or three rounds of voting, which many Somalis say is affected more by bribery than by policies traditionally.
Ahmed took over as chairman of the Western-backed transitional government in 2009, founded the National Army and helped oust al-Shabaab from Mogadishu.
The other former president, Mohamed, was a peace activist and academic. Both were accused of failing to stop corruption.
Despite being broken by civil war since 1991, Somalia has had a relatively peaceful leadership change every four years since 2000, although the latest has been delayed since 2021.
Widespread insecurity means it is impossible for Somalia’s nearly 15 million people to hold a popular vote.
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