Lawmakers in Somalia gather to elect new president | Election news

Former presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud are the frontrunners among 35 candidates.

Somali parliamentarians gathered in a heavily fortified airport hangar on Sunday to vote for a new president as the country battles the ongoing threat of violence and a major food crisis.

In a crowded field of 35 candidates, former presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud led the way, analysts say, although their regimes failed to stop corruption or war by armed groups.

The United Nations-backed vote was delayed by more than a year due to government bickering, but is due this month to secure a $400 million International Monetary Fund program.

It takes place during the worst drought in the Horn of Africa in four decades and against a depressingly well-known backdrop of violence from al-Shabab attacks, infighting between security forces and clan rivalry.

African Union (AU) peacekeepers stand next to election banners of presidential candidates along a street in Mogadishu
African Union peacekeepers stand next to election banners on a street in the capital Mogadishu [Hassan Ali Elmi/AFP]

A suicide bomber claimed by Al-Shabab on Wednesday injured seven people during political rallies near the hangar in the coastal capital of Mogadishu. On Friday, fighters from an armed group fought against government forces in Galmudug state.

There was a curfew in Mogadishu on Sunday, the streets were quiet and the shops were closed.

While holding the vote was something of a success, many in the country of 15 million people were skeptical of real progress. Top candidates were old faces from the past who had done little to help them, and such voices were traditionally dominated by bribery, they complained.

Incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, nicknamed “Farmaajo” for his famed love of Italian Formaggio cheese, appeared not to be re-elected after losing support in last month’s parliamentary vote.

Long process

The vote cannot begin until two-thirds of the members of both houses of parliament are present, and the process is expected to take several hours and well into the night.

Four candidates dropped out of the race on Saturday and more candidates are expected to do so over multiple rounds of voting, narrowing the options until a winner is chosen.

The winner must get a minimum of 184 votes.

Somalia has not held one-person, one-vote elections in 50 years.

Instead, polls follow a complex indirect model, where state legislators and clan deputies elect legislators to the national parliament, who in turn elect the president.

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