Thursday May 12, 2022
Somalia is set to hold its long-delayed presidential vote on
Sunday, ending the convoluted electoral process that raised tensions in the
country when the president’s term expired last year without a successor in
Authorities have registered 39 presidential candidates, a
list that includes incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, two former presidents,
a former prime minister, several top officials and even a journalist. The field
includes one woman, Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam, a lawmaker who once served as Somalia’s
The vote will take place amid heightened insecurity as the
Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, which opposes the federal government,
continues to stage lethal attacks in the capital and elsewhere in the Horn of
With mortar shells and gun assaults, al-Shabab in recent
months has repeatedly tested the defenses of the Halane military camp, which is
protected by African Union peacekeepers. A suicide bombing Wednesday killed at
least four, including two government soldiers, at a checkpoint near the heavily
fortified airport area where lawmakers will meet Sunday to choose a new
The vote is behind schedule by 15 months and Somali
authorities faced a May 17 deadline to hold the vote or risk losing key funding
from international donors.
Somali polls are unpredictable, and it appears Mohamed — who
is also known as Farmaajo — faces a tough battle for reelection. Mohamed has
been locked in a power struggle with his prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble,
over control of the government. Roble is not running for president, but behind
the scenes he and other former leaders could play a decisive role in the
outcome of the vote.
“A lot of issues are at stake. The most important thing is
to oust the incumbent and unite all candidates against him, although he is
aware his chances for re-election are minimal, unlike his predecessors,”
said Mohamed Mohamud, a Mogadishu-based political analyst.
“There are disturbing phenomena that the incumbent can’t
secure the required votes for his re-election, but he is determined to twist
results for his preferred opposition candidate and attempt to prevent specific
candidates from winning even if they are ahead in the polls,” he said.
Despite its persistent insecurity, Somalia has had peaceful
changes of leadership every four years since 2000, and it has the distinction
of having Africa’s first democratically elected president to peacefully step
down, Aden Abdulle Osman in 1967.
Somalia began to fall apart in 1991, when warlords ousted
dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and
al-Shabab attacks, along with famine, have shattered the country of some 12
The goal of a direct, one-person-one-vote election in
Somalia remains elusive. It was meant to take place this time. Instead, the
federal government and states agreed on another “indirect election,” with
lawmakers elected by community leaders — delegates of powerful clans — in each
All 329 lawmakers of both chambers of parliament are expected
to vote by secret ballot on Sunday. To win in the first round, a candidate must
secure two-thirds of the vote, or 219 ballots. Observers expect a second or
even third round of voting for the four top candidates.
In addition to Mohamed, major contenders include former
presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, as well as Said Dani,
the current president of the regional state of Puntland.
Somali elections are notoriously corrupt, and there have
been widespread allegations of bribery beginning with the selection of
Mohamed’s four-year term expired in February 2021, but he
stayed in office after the lower house of parliament approved a two-year
extension of his mandate and that of the federal government, drawing fury from
Senate leaders and criticism from the international community.
The poll delay triggered an exchange of gunfire in April
2021 between soldiers loyal to the government and others angry over what they
saw as the president’s unlawful extension of his mandate.
Under pressure, Mohamed reversed the term extension and
instructed the prime minister to engage with leaders of regional states to
chart a fresh roadmap to the vote.
Whoever wins the election faces the urgent issue of
insecurity, with al-Shabab fighters making territorial gains in recent months.
The new president will also have to help ease tensions between regional states
competing for limited resources, analysts say.
“We are hoping that the next president will be someone who
can put the nation’s interest before his interest and lead the country towards
peace and prosperity,” said Farhan Isak Yusuf, deputy executive director of
Somali Public Agenda, a Mogadishu-based policy think tank and research group.
“The decision is in the hands of lawmakers who are entirely independent and not
loyal to any certain groups (but) frequently manipulated by money.”