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Old faces compete for presidency of turbulent Somalia

Hassan Ali Khaire, former Somali Prime Minister and candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, is seen during the first round of voting in Mogadishu, Somalia. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Thirty-six aspirants are competing in Somalia's long-delayed presidential election on Sunday, to be decided by parliament in a heavily-guarded airport hangar given the impossibility of a popular vote in the dysfunctional and violent nation.

Two former presidents and a regional leader are strong contenders. There is only one female candidate.

HISTORY

Said Abdulahi Deni, Puntland region President and a candidate for the 2022 Somali presidential elections, is seen during the first round of voting in Mogadishu, Somalia. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Riven by civil war since 1991, the Horn of Africa nation has struggled to rebuild institutions in the face of a bloody insurgency by the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, who control large swathes of the countryside.

A rift between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, whose bid to extend his presidency was thwarted by parliament last year, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, has divided security services.

That has distracted from the fight against al Shabaab and triggered gun battles between factions.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, the incumbent President and a candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, is seen during the first round of voting in Mogadishu, Somalia. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

THE ELECTION

On Sunday, the nation's bicameral federal parliament, comprising the 275-member lower house and 54-member senate, will together elect a new president in several rounds of voting.

In the absence of a functioning state, the voting system is based on a power-sharing formula. Somalia's four largest clans each hold 61 seats in parliament, while the smaller clans share the remaining 31. Seats in the senate are chosen by the states.

Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, former Somali President and candidate for the 2022 presidential elections, is seen during the first round of voting in Mogadishu, Somalia. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Parliament's organising committee has asked an already present African Union peacekeeping force to protect the hangar in Mogadishu. Last month, the peackeeepers faced off with local police during the elections for speaker of the upper and lower houses.

WHO IS LIKELY TO WIN?

Critics of Mohamed won those races last month, suggesting that he does not enjoy popular support among lawmakers and may not retain his post.

Officials count ballots during the first round of the Somali presidential elections, in Mogadishu, Somalia. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Parliamentarians from Jubbaland and Puntland states have been at odds with Mohamed over his attempts to centralise power, so are likely to line up behind an opposition figure, while those from South West state are believed to back the incumbent.

Two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (2009-2012) and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (2012-2017), are among the favourites, analysts say.

Ahmed, a former Islamist, took over as head of a Western-backed transitional government in 2009, establishing the national army and helping push al Shabaab out of Mogadishu.

African union peacekeepers provide security during the Somali presidential elections, in Mogadishu, Somalia. May 15, 2022. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Mohamud, a former peace activist and academic, was accused by donors of not doing enough to fight graft while in office.

Close contenders and likely king-makers in the second round of voting are former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, who served from 2017-2020, and Puntland region president Said Abdulahi Deni.

In previous elections, rival candidates have accused each other of bribing lawmakers. Former foreign minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam is the only woman in the race, but is regarded as an outsider.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

In February the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that its almost $400 million budget support program would not be extended unless legislative and presidential elections were completed by the middle of this month.

The government cannot fund its budget or pay its soldiers without external support and Somalia is undergoing the worst drought for 40 years.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Hereward Holland; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)

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Dive Deeper:
Behind blast walls, Somali parliament to choose new president
Two former presidents will face off against the incumbent in Somalia's long-delayed presidential vote on Sunday behind blast walls to…
Somalia's new president to be elected by parliament behind barricades
Hundreds of Somali parliamentarians will meet on Sunday in a heavily-fortified airport hangar to choose a new president in a…
Somali police announce curfew in capital during Sunday's presidential vote
Police in Somalia have announced a 33-hour curfew on the capital Mogadishu that will keep almost all residents at home…
Voting to elect Somali president goes to second round
Somalia’s presidential vote is proceeding to a second round after the first round of voting did not produce a decisive…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Somali leader among four frontrunners in presidential vote
Mogadishu (AFP) - Explosions were heard near Mogadishu's airport Sunday at the start of voting in long-overdue Somali presidential elections as…
Somalia backs President Mohamud for second term, hoping for peace and stability
Sworn in early on Monday, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud becomes the first Somali president to win a second term. He has…
Get all your news in one place