Mogadishu, Somalia (AP) — Somali lawmakers hold a meeting to elect a president of Somalia on Sunday. A lockdown has been put in place to prevent a deadly armed attack in the capital, Mogadishu.
About 36 candidates are vying for the presidency, including incumbent leader Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and his predecessors Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. Sid Dani, the leader of the local state of Puntland, is also considered a leader. A wide field of candidates includes one woman, Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam. He is a member of the parliament who once served as Somalia’s foreign minister.
Voting takes place inside an airport hangar tent at the Halane Army camp protected by African Union peacekeepers. The voting process is expected to continue until late Sunday, especially if a second and third ballot is required. To win the first round, the candidate must win two-thirds, or 219 votes.
To prevent extremist violence from interfering with elections, Somali police have placed Mogadishu, the site of repeated attacks by Islamic rebel al-Shabaab, on a lockdown starting at 9 p.m. Saturday. According to police, this means most residents will have to stay at home until lockdowns are lifted on Monday morning.
Police spokeswoman Abdipatta Adan Hassan said: “All movement is prohibited, including traffic jams, businesses, schools and even people.”
Analysts say incumbent President Mohamed, also known as Farmajo, is facing a tough fight for re-election because of his appetite for Italian cheese. In the Horn of Africa, where rival clans battle fiercely for political power, no incumbent president has ever won re-election.
In Somalia, a country of about 12 million people, the goal of direct one-member, one-vote elections remains elusive due to widespread extremist violence. Authorities planned direct elections this time, but instead the federal government and the states agreed to another “indirect election”. Members of Parliament are elected by community leaders (strong clan representatives) in each Member State.
All 329 members of both houses elect the president by secret ballot.
The United Nations Aid for Somalia and others in the international community said, “We urge lawmakers to vote on their conscience, choosing candidates they believe provide policy and leadership qualities to advance peace, stability, prosperity and sound governance in the years to come. “I do,” he said in a late statement on Saturday.
Despite persistent unrest, Somalia has been changing leadership peacefully every four years since 2000, and is characterized by the peaceful resignation of Aden Abdulle Osman, Africa’s first democratically elected president, in 1967.
Mohammed’s four-year term expired in February 2021, but he took office after the House of Representatives approved a two-year extension for him and the federal government, drawing anger from Senate leaders and international criticism.
The delay in voting sparked a gunfight in April 2021 between soldiers loyal to the government and furious over the president’s illegal extension of powers.
Somalia began to crumble in 1991 when warlords turned their backs on each other after overthrowing dictator Shiad Bare. Years of conflict and al-Shabab attacks along with famine have shattered this country with its long, strategic coastline next to the Indian Ocean.
Ordinary Somalis hold their breath and await Sunday’s election results.
“Today is a historic day that will determine who will rule this country for the next four years. We pray for a president who can bring Somalia out of its current state and into a promising and prosperous future,” said Abdi Mohamed, a Mogadishu resident. “Allah knows best, and we seek his guidance and mercy.”