Friday May 13, 2022
Two former presidents will face off against the incumbent in
Somalia’s long-delayed presidential vote on Sunday behind blast walls to
protect lawmakers from Islamist attacks and meddling by factions within the
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is among 39 candidates
seeking the top post, to be chosen by parliamentarians in an airport hangar as
the government’s tenuous grip on the nation makes a popular vote impossible.
The winner will inherit a daunting list of challenges
including the worst drought in 40 years, a violent conflict entering its fourth
decade, clan feuds, and a power struggle between the government and federal
“I am the most deserving person who can take Somalia to
one man, one vote,” President Mohamed, known as Farmaajo for his reputed
love of Italian cheese, told lawmakers on Thursday.
Analysts say he may struggle to secure enough votes after
allies failed to win senior roles in parliament last week.
At his inauguration in 2017, Mohamed promised to
“finish” al Shabaab, an al Qaeda franchise, but the insurgents’
attacks and extortion of households and businesses have continued.
Last year, Mohamed’s failed bid to extend his term by two
years sparked street battles in the capital Mogadishu as security forces split
into factions, while his attempts to centralise power has irked regional
The election has been delayed repeatedly, putting a
three-year $400 million International Monetary Fund (IMF) support programme at
risk, as the president and prime minister traded accusations of trying to
derail the process.
‘SOMALIA CANNOT HAVE
Almost two-thirds of parliament, chosen by clan elders last
month, are new, so lack a long voting record to help predict the outcome,
political analysts said.
Despite the open field, the favourites include former
presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
Ahmed, a former Islamist, took over as head of a
Western-backed transitional government in 2009.
Mohamud, a former academic whom donors accused of not doing
enough to fight graft while in office, told parliament on Thursday he would
reconcile clans and the federal states and hold a referendum on the
“Somalia cannot have a dictator leader who illegally
clings to their seat,” Mohamud said.
Close contenders and likely king-makers in the later rounds
of voting are Puntland region president Said Abdulahi Deni and former Prime
Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.
“I want to liberate our people from the poverty so that
they can live with honour,” Deni said.
Some residents of Mogadishu said they felt the election
would be rigged and unlikely to change much at the top.
“We have seen such pseudo-elections before. I believe
another liar will be elected,” said Fardawsa Ahmed, a restaurant owner.
But local elder Aden Osman was more optimistic.
“Lawmakers used to elect the one who gave them the
biggest hidden hand-shake (bribe). Now they may eat from all hands, but will
choose a good man. That is good,” he said.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Hereward Holland; Writing by
Hereward Holland; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne).