MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s presidential election is way behind schedule, but after nearly a year-and-a-half of political wrangling, Somalis will finally have a new leader on Sunday.
The presidential election committee, which comprises members from both houses of parliament, is organizing the election, and the venue and stage have already been set up at Afasiyoni, the country’s former air force base inside the heavily fortified Mogadishu International Airport.
Forces of the African Union Transition Mission will maintain the security of the venue and have imposed a total lockdown in the area ahead of the vote.
Abdurahman Sheikh Azhari, an independent analyst based in the capital Mogadishu, said the election is key to international support for Somalia on many fronts. “Political stability and security is uncertain due to the prolonged election process, which took longer than anticipated,” he told Anadolu Agency.
But, he added, things are changing thanks to the end of the process of electing members of both the upper and lower house of parliament, who will jointly elect the president.
The head of state – who must receive at least two-thirds of the votes, or 184 votes, to be elected – will then appoint a prime minister, and a new Cabinet will be formed.
Besides political instability, the East African country faces an insurgency by al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.
Incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, also known as Farmaajo, who has remained in office more than a year after his constitutional mandate expired due to a delay in the holding of parliamentary elections, is hoping to be re-elected.
But he faces stiff competition from several candidates including two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire Hassan.
No sitting president has ever been re-elected in Somalia’s history.
After their registration, the candidates were given 15 minutes each to present their manifesto in parliament, which mainly focused on security, economy, and foreign policy.
Azhari said Somalis are hoping to see a change in the Somali leadership, adding that youth engagement should be significant in the new setup. “It’s important to mention that half of the parliament members are under the age of 40, and there is a possibility of them joining the new Cabinet.”
Somalia needs a healer
Abdinur Sheikh Mohamed, a candidate for Somalia’s presidency who identifies himself as a nationalist, told Anadolu Agency that Somalia needs a leader who can unite and reconcile Somalis, and have a clear political, economic, security, and foreign policy agenda.
Mohamed, who previously served as a federal minister of education, said he is glad to run against Farmaajo, offering the country an alternative leadership.
He believes the opposition candidates are better choices for Somalia, who could help bring “real change.”
“Farmaajo didn’t keep his promises to lead the country to a one-man, one-vote election (universal suffrage), and delayed the polls for over a year. Somalia needs change,” he said.
Somalia and Turkiye enjoy special relations that have been growing since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the country in 2011, a time when it was facing severe famine that killed over 20,000 people and displaced millions.
Turkish humanitarian organizations are also active in providing humanitarian and education assistance.
Mohamed said relations between Somalia and Turkiye are historical, and Turks have helped Somalia in state-building, as well as security. He added that the new era could take bilateral relations to an even higher level.
Omar Abdi Jimale, a lecturer at the SIMAD and Mogadishu universities, told Anadolu Agency that parliamentary elections in Somalia were neither free nor fair, and were characterized by political squabbles, horse-trading, intimidation, as well as armed clashes.
A few individuals, or the elite, control the vote, he said of the complex, indirect, and clan-based parliamentary election.
“Although I cannot call the 2017 election free and fair, there was autonomy in terms of who the clans elected as MPs, government intimidation was limited and women quotas were generally honored. But not so much this time,” he said.
He said Somalis have been further divided in the last five years due to bitter political rivalries.
“The country requires a reconciliatory leader who can bring citizens together and work with [the five] federal states,” Jimale said.
“Improving security, enhancing the justice system, developing good relations with the international community, creating a system of checks and balances, completing the drafting of the constitution, strengthening state institutions, and keeping the army out of politics are the salient issues the next elected president should consider.”