Citing security reasons, Somali police announce a curfew in Mogadishu ahead of long-delayed elections.
Somalia is set to hold its long-delayed presidential vote this weekend, ending a complicated electoral process that heightened tensions in the country when the president’s term expired last year without a successor in place.
Authorities have registered 39 presidential candidates for Sunday’s election, a list that includes incumbent Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, two former presidents, several top officials and one woman: Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam, a lawmaker who was once Somalia’s foreign minister.
The vote will take place amid heightened insecurity as the al-Qaeda-linked armed group al-Shabab, which opposes the federal government, continues to carry out deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa nation. .
In recent months, al-Shabab has repeatedly tested the defenses of the Halane military camp, which is protected by African Union peacekeepers. A suicide bombing on Wednesday killed at least four people, including two government soldiers, at a checkpoint near the heavily fortified airport area where lawmakers are due to meet on Sunday to elect a new president.
At a press conference on Saturday, police spokesman Abdifatah Aden announced a full curfew in the capital Mogadishu, covering traffic and people, from Saturday at 9 p.m. (6 p.m. GMT) until Monday at 06:00 (03:00 GMT).
Legislators, security personnel and all other officials involved in the vote are still allowed to move freely during those hours.
The indirect election, in which lawmakers choose the president, will be held in an airport hangar behind explosive walls to help prevent possible attacks or meddling by factions within the security services.
The vote is 15 months late and Somali authorities had a May 17 deadline to hold the vote or risk losing key funds from international donors.
President Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, faces a tough battle for re-election. He has been embroiled in a power struggle with his prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, for control of the government and could play a decisive role in the outcome of the vote.
Despite its persistent insecurity, Somalia has had peaceful leadership changes in every election since 2000, and has the distinction of having Africa’s first democratically elected president, Aden Abdulle Osman, who resigned peacefully in 1967.
Somalia began to unravel in 1991, when strongmen toppled Siad Barre and then turned on each other. Years of conflict and attacks by al-Shabab, along with famine, have ravaged the country of some 12 million people.
The goal of a direct election of one person, one vote in Somalia remains elusive. It was destined to take place this time. Instead, the federal and state governments agreed to another “indirect election,” with lawmakers chosen by community leaders, delegates from powerful clans, in each member state.
All 329 lawmakers in the bicameral parliament are expected to vote by secret ballot on Sunday. To win in the first round, a candidate must get two-thirds of the votes, or 219 ballots. Observers expect a second or even a third round of voting for the four main candidates.
Mohamed’s four-year term expired in February 2021, but he remained in office after the lower house of parliament approved a two-year extension of his term and that of the federal government, drawing fury from leaders of the Senate and criticism from the international community.
The delay in the elections triggered an exchange of fire in April 2021 between soldiers loyal to the government and others angry at what they saw as an illegal extension of the president’s mandate.
Under pressure, Mohamed reversed the mandate extension and instructed the prime minister to engage with regional state leaders to draw up a new plan for the vote.