Somalia’s troubled elections face a new problem


Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Photo by Cyrille Bah/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

  • The members of the lower house should have been elected before February 25.
  • While 275 representatives were elected in two federal states, 40 seats remain vacant in three other states.
  • President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s term expired in February 2021 but was extended by parliament.

Somalia failed to conclude elections for the lower house of parliament on time on Tuesday, marking the latest snag in a deeply troubled process to appoint a new president.

The term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, expired in February 2021 but was then controversially extended by parliament, sparking deadly clashes.

In a complex indirect electoral system, the lower house plays a crucial role in appointing the president.

The five federal state assemblies, along with clan-chosen delegates, choose the legislators who, in turn, appoint the president.

MPs should have been elected to the lower house by February 25, a deadline the government extended to March 15.

As the final deadline loomed on Tuesday, the South West and Galmudug federal states had elected their representatives in the 275-seat body, according to an AFP tally using official data.

However, 40 seats remained vacant in the other three states – Jubaland, Hirshabelle, Puntland.

The government did not immediately comment.

Somalia has fought a jihadist insurgency for 15 years.

Farmajo’s term was controversially extended by parliament in April, sparking deadly shootings on the streets of the capital Mogadishu.

Seeking to ease tensions, Farmajo ordered his prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, to hold elections but tensions arose between the two, delaying the process.

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Elections to the upper house were completed at the end of 2021.

In January, Roble and regional leaders reached an agreement to complete lower house elections by February 25 after voting began in November. The deadline was then pushed back to March 15.

The international community has expressed fears that postponing the elections could trigger further unrest in a country already fighting insurgents.

After last month’s delay, the United States announced an extension of visa restrictions for officials and others “responsible or complicit” in undermining Somalia’s electoral process.

And in February, the International Monetary Fund told AFP that the country’s financial aid program – which was due to end automatically in May – was at risk if a new government was not in place by then.

The UN Special Representative for Somalia, James Swan, also called on the authorities to “accelerate and quickly conclude” the lower house elections.

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