Somalia Votes: The Return of Politics

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A boy reacts during food distribution by an international Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Mogadishu 30 June 2012. (Photo: Reuters - Goran Tomasevic)

By: Ali Abdi Hocho

Published Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mogadishu - In approximately one month from now, Somali representatives and senators will meet in the People’s Assembly building. They will elect a president for the first time in 21 years, an era of bloody conflict that brought political life and institutions in the country to a complete standstill.

The tribes are expected to appoint their representatives in the Federal Parliament and the Senate, which will be formed early next month, before the members of both houses vote to elect the next president of the Federal Republic of Somalia. Regional and international organizations are expected to be present to observe the process.

The Banaadir commissioner Mahmud Ahmed Nur Tarsan, who is also the mayor of Mogadishu, told Al-Akhbar that the Somali capital is gearing up to host the first parliamentary and presidential elections after the collapse of the central government two decades ago.

Tarsan said that the previous transitional – parliamentary and presidential – elections were held in Djibouti and Kenya, given the security situation in Somalia at the time. However, security in the capital began to improve substantially after government troops and African Union peacekeeping forces captured the neighboring towns of Balad and Afgoye.

The Banaadir commissioner said, “Mogadishu will be an ideal city and the eternal capital of Somalia”. “Al-Qaeda and its followers will never succeed in turning it into a bloodbath and a ghost city, or force the capital to be relocated elsewhere,” he added.

According to legal analyst Ahmed Ishaq, the parliamentarians in both the House of Representatives, which will consist of 225 members, and the Senate, which will comprise 54 members, will vote together in a joint session to select a president for a five-year term. The analyst said that the elections will bring a conclusion to the heated race for the presidency among the many candidates, who come from widely varying backgrounds.

Ishaq also pointed out that the tribal quota system for the sharing of power and natural resources is still under debate and is at the center of a political battle between three of the four largest tribes, while minority groups are fighting for an end to the tribal system.

As the date of the presidential and parliamentary elections draws near, tensions between rival factions in the government have escalated. Some clan chiefs in are conducting negotiations in order to form large coalitions, with a view to secure a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate that would enable them to snatch the presidential seat.

Soyal Ibrahim, a journalist at Radio Garowe, told Al-Akhbar that Mogadishu is currently witnessing a lot of political activity by figures vying for the posts of president, speaker and prime minister. He added, “There are increasing ambitions and the list remains open pending the outcome of the upcoming parliamentary elections, which observers believe will alter the political landscape in Somalia, beyond the post of president, affecting all aspects of the state.”

The current transitional president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is expected to return to power, although he is facing criticisms and accusations from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. The group, in its report to the UN Security Council, confirmed that the Somali president is involved in corruption and misappropriation of public funds. The group also said that he had granted some pirate leaders diplomatic passports along with his partners in government.

The Somali army, police force and intelligence services are taking measures to secure the capital and repel the offensive being threatened by al-Qaeda and other armed factions before the elections. The Minister of Interior and National Security in the Transitional Government Abdisamad Moalim Mohamud spoke to Al-Akhbar about the security situation.

He said that the police and intelligence services will close Makkah al-Mukarramah Street, which links the airport to Villa Somalia – the presidential palace – and the People’s Assembly building, to civilian traffic and public transport vehicles and trucks.

Mohamud said, “The presidential elections will be held in accordance with the highest international standards and we will ensure the full integrity of the elections.” He added, “Regional and international organizations and bodies will be involved, and systems for the detection of explosives and bombs will be deployed.”

A security source confirmed that the army and the police have been put on high alert at the Police Academy in Mogadishu in the neighborhood of Hamr Jub Jub in the capital, where 825 tribal envoys will meet, representing the National Constituent Assembly, to ratify a new constitution drafted by Somali experts and foreign legal experts from the United Nations in Nairobi.

The Somali National Intelligence Agency has warned that al-Shabaab, a group affiliated to al-Qaeda, intends to carry out suicide attacks against the Constituent Assembly, which is expected to hold its first session before the end of this week. The head of military intelligence in the province of Banaadir Khalif, Ahmed Irig, said that the intelligence services have ordered all their forces to be extra vigilant around government headquarters and military and security sites, including checkpoints, to prevent any terrorist acts.

The list of Somali presidential candidates is expanding daily, with the total number of candidates now exceeding 25, including some who are already involved in the current political process, such as the current transitional president. There are candidates who were formerly in the military, academics, businessmen, and former warlords.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

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