Somalia’s parliament will hold presidential elections this Sunday, delayed by more than a year after problems in holding the general elections scheduled for December 2020 due to political tensions and growing uncertainty following attacks by the terrorist group Al Shabaab.
A total of 39 people, a historical figure in the country, have submitted their candidacy for the presidency ahead of a vote to be held at a facility at Mogadishu International Airport amid a large security screen.
Somalia’s political system does not provide for direct elections, so the President is elected by the members of the recently constituted parliament through an indirect process in which the population has no voting rights and in which no political parties participate.
Thus, parliamentarians are elected by delegates appointed by leaders of traditional clans and members of civil society who are in turn chosen by regional authorities. Subsequently, these individuals and the members of the Senate representing the country’s five regions are responsible for appointing the new President.
This model reflects the power the clans still hold in the African country – four of them retain the majority with seats evenly distributed – and the lack of a state with the ability to control the situation on the ground, insecurity and widespread corruption.
General elections ended in April after numerous delays since late 2020, after which the leaders of both chambers were elected, led by Adán Mohamed Nuur Madobe — President of the Lower House — and Abdi Hashi — President of Parliament — the Upper House–.
The selection process for executive posts in the legislature also marked a historic milestone, with Sania Yasin Samatar becoming the first woman vice-president of a chamber of the Somali parliament at the end of April.
The vote also comes some 15 months after the end of current President Mohamed Abdulahi Mohamed’s term in office and has been criticized by the opposition for his alleged efforts to prolong the electoral process and stay in power unconstitutionally.
Since then, the President, popularly known as “Farmajo”, has been involved in numerous altercations with Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, whom he even tried twice to suspend from office due to his tensions and differing interpretations of the legal framework for decision-making.
‘Farmajo’ recently announced he would seek re-election – after winning the 2017 general election – although he does not appear to be among the main favorites following setbacks suffered by his candidates in the main campaign election offices in Parliament.
The main favorites for the post, therefore, include former Presidents Sheikh Sharif Ahmed (2009-2012) and Hasan Sheikh Mohamud (2012-2017), who have been particularly critical of the current President in recent months, fueling tensions that are even threatening Armed clashes break out in the capital.
Sharif Ahmed, a member of the Hawiye clan, has geared his political program towards completing the constitutional revision process and ending the conflict with Al Shabaab – which has ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist organization – while Sheikh Mohamud, also from the Hawiye clan , is committed to easing tensions between the central government and the regions.
Also among the candidates with the most opportunities are former Prime Minister Hasán Ali Jaire, who held the post between 2017 and 2020 – when he was forced to resign after a controversial no-confidence vote – and the president of the semi-autonomous Puntland region, Abdullahi Deni said.
Ali Jaire, also a member of the Hawiye clan, has defended that his goal will be to uphold the political agenda he pushed as Prime Minister and to change the mistakes that led to the motion of no confidence against him, while Deni , a member of the Darod clan belonging to ‘Farmajo’, has focused on strengthening the economy and institutions.
On the other hand, there is only one woman among the 39 candidates, ex-Foreign Minister Fauzia Yusuf Adam, although she is not one of the favourites. The role of women in Somali politics remains a remnant, although progress has been made in recent years regarding their representation in parliament.
In this sense, Yusuf Adam has defended during his election campaign the need to integrate women into the political process and give them more weight in society in order to move the African country forward, supporting his capacity for reform due to his experience as a minister and deputy prime minister.
The presidential election has also caused tensions to rise in recent weeks, reflected in a surge in Kalashnikov assault rifle prices in arms markets, the New Humanitarian Agency reported this week.
Back in April 2021, “Farmajo’s” attempts to extend his mandate through a parliamentary vote sparked clashes in Mogadishu, a precedent raising fears that the vote could spark new episodes of violence in Mogadishu, the Hawiye clan’s main stronghold. could lead.
The election is also taking place amid a situation of insecurity marked for years by the presence of Al Shabaab, which controls parts of the south of the country and has carried out multiple attacks in the capital and other parts of Somalia in the days leading up to the vote.
The group’s most recent attacks include one in April against a facility near Mogadishu airport during the swearing-in ceremony for new parliamentarians, an incident that left no casualties. The capital has been the scene of several attacks in recent days, including an assassination attempt on local police chief Farhan Qarole, who had survived a car bomb attack in July 2021.
Al Shabaab also carried out an attack on an African Union (AU) mission base in the central Somali town of El Baraf in early May, killing at least ten Burundian soldiers in the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) , according to the balance provided by Gitega.
This base has also been attacked with projectiles in recent days, a sign of growing insecurity despite international efforts. ATMIS received the support of the United Nations Security Council in April and emerges from the reorganization of the AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which supports the government in the fight against Al Shabaab.
Add to that the deepening humanitarian crisis in the country, which has also been rocked by the worst drought in nearly four decades, prompting Roble to appeal for international aid in March. The Prime Minister, who declared a state of emergency at the end of 2021, warned that almost seven million people would be affected.
The UN has unveiled a humanitarian aid plan for Somalia that is expected to raise $1,500 million to help 5.5 million people amid a displacement crisis due to the loss of refugee camps and community tensions.