Somalia leaders fail to break deadlock over presidential vote

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, President of Somalia, attends the London Somalia Conference' at Lancaster House

Somali leaders have failed to end a stalemate over the selection of a new president scheduled for next week, government officials said on Saturday, raising the risk of more political turmoil.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed flew back to the capital Mogadishu without a deal on the staffing of regional electoral commissions, Osman Dube, the information minister, said late on Friday.

“No agreement was reached,” the minister said, adding that both houses of parliament would meet on Saturday to chart a way forward. Mohamed’s office said he was set to address both houses of parliament.

Somalia, which has had only limited central government since 1991, is trying to rebuild with the help of the United Nations.

It had initially aimed to hold its first direct election in more than three decades this year but delays in preparations, and the government’s inability to rein in daily attacks by al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents, meant switching to an indirect vote, with elders picking lawmakers who would choose a president.

Now even that plan is in tatters.

The United Nations, the African Union and other international partners on Thursday warned that the impasse over the election must be resolved.

“Any alternative outcomes, including a parallel process or partial elections, or other measures short of an agreed electoral process, would be a setback that would not obtain the support of partners,” they said in a joint statement.

Regional authorities in at least two of Somalia’s five federal states, Puntland and Jubbaland, oppose holding the election for now. National and regional forces have clashed in Jubbaland.

One sticking point in this week’s three-day crunch talks held in the central town of Dhusamareb, was control of Gedo, an area of Jubbaland where President Mohamed’s forces have been battling their regional counterparts for control.

“President Faarmajo insists he will rule Gedo region and hold its election,” said Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe, Jubbaland’s president, using President Mohamed’s informal name.

While the constitution sets out four-year mandates for the presidency, an extension of the government’s term by parliament is legally allowed by precedent, though analysts warn that the move is politically fraught.

“If the main politicians don’t agree, there is still going to be a massive problem,,” said Omar Mahmood, senior analyst for Somalia at international think-tank International Crisis Group.

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