Somalia MPs to elect new president

Members of parliament to vote in the first vote of its kind in decades amid fears that the election will be rigged.

    Members of parliament in Somalia will vote for a new president in the first vote of its kind in decades amid fears that the election will be rigged and do little to alter the political landscape.

    Billed as a milestone in the war-ravaged country's quest to end two decades of violence, graft and infighting, a newly elected parliament will convene at the police academy in Mogadishu on Monday to vote for the next head of state by secret ballot.

    More than two dozen candidates are vying for the position, including the current president and prime minister, as well as prominent Somalis who have returned from overseas.

    If no candidate secures a two-thirds majority in the first round of voting and a simple majority in the second, the election would go to a third round.

    Afyane Emli, professor of international affairs at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera the election is based on an arbitrary procedure where traditional elders and clan members select the parliamentarians.

    "Somali people do not elect the MPs that are electing the so-called president. So technically we have an arbitrary and corrupt process that has produced the MPs now and there are so many things that are far from transparency and openness," he said.

    "The three incumbents that are in power have manipulated the process to their advantage. The front-runners, the president, the prime minister and the former speaker of the parliament have had significant impact on how the process develops for quite some time".

    Bribery allegations

    There has been no effective central government control over most of the country since the outbreak of civil war in 1991 and Monday's vote is seen as a culmination of a regionally brokered and UN-backed road map to end that conflict, during which tens of thousands were killed and many more fled.

    The vote is the first to take place in Somalia in decades and has been made possible by African Union, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops who have pushed al-Qaeda-linked fighters out of more and more areas.

    Some presidential contenders and Somalis have criticised the election process saying it will merely bring in a new government that will look much like previous ones.

    A diplomatic source in Mogadishu said millions of dollars were being used to bribe lawmakers to vote for the incumbent, President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

    "Seven million dollars is estimated to have come from Gulf sources and the money is intended to ensure that President Sharif is re-elected," said the source, who declined to be named, due to the sensitivity of the matter.

    The source said the money was coming from Somali business interests in Gulf Arab countries, some of whom have connections to warlords and want to maintain the status quo.

    "Thus far the process has delivered very impressive results, we're afraid it'll be hijacked at the last minute ... there is a struggle now between those who want the status quo and those who want change," the source added, urging lawmakers to "vote with their conscience”.

    The president's office could not be reached to comment on the allegation on Sunday but Ahmed has repeatedly denied any suggestion of wrongdoing.

    In July, a UN Somalia monitoring group report said it had found that out of every $10 received by the transitional federal government between 2009 and 2010, $7 had never made it into state coffers. Ahmed dismissed those allegations.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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