Somalia’s parliament elected a veteran politician as speaker of the lower house in a drawn-out process that concluded in the early hours on Thursday, as the fragile nation edges closer to holding a delayed presidential vote.
The election is more than a year behind schedule, with the process marred by deadly violence and a power struggle between the current president and the prime minister.
Following the election of the upper house speaker on Tuesday, lawmakers in the lower house chose Sheikh Adan Mohamed Nur, better known as Sheikh Adan Madobe, as speaker in a process that extended into two rounds of voting.
The vote took place in a tent inside Mogadishu’s heavily-guarded airport complex under tight security, following a spate of attacks in recent weeks by Al-Shabaab jihadists who have been waging an insurgency against the government for over a decade.
Madobe, 66, secured 163 votes out of the 252 ballots cast by lawmakers. He had previously served as speaker between 2007 and 2010.
He is not known to be allied with either President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed or Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, who have been sparring bitterly in recent months over the election process and security matters.
The president, better known as Farmajo, congratulated Madobe, saying in a statement that he hoped his election “becomes a starting point for a greater change that saves the country”.
On Tuesday, 76-year-old Abdi Hashi Abdullahi was re-elected as speaker of the upper house. Parliament will now set a date for the presidential vote.
Somalia was meant to elect a new president last year, but failed to do so before Farmajo’s mandate expired in February 2021.
Farmajo tried to extend his rule by decree, sparking violent street battles in Mogadishu.
Under pressure from the international community, he appointed Roble to seek consensus on a way forward. But the pair’s disagreements have hindered progress and stoked fears of further instability in the country, which is already battling Al-Shabaab and the threat of famine.
In addition, a crucial IMF three-year $400 million (380 million euro) financial assistance package for Somalia will automatically expire in mid-May if a new administration is not in place to endorse planned reforms.
– ‘Exercise restraint’ –
On Wednesday, Somalia’s international backers warned that “political tensions and security incidents must not be permitted to disrupt (the election’s) final stages”.
“We urge all Somali leaders to exercise restraint, resolve differences through compromise, and avoid escalation of any incidents.”
Somalia has not held a one-person, one-vote election in 50 years.
Instead, polls follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.
The election delays have worried Somalia’s international backers, who have warned that the chaos distracts from the fight against Al-Shabaab.
The Al-Qaeda-linked militants frequently attack civilian, military and government targets in Somalia’s capital and elsewhere in the country.
The jihadists controlled Mogadishu until 2011 when they were pushed out by an African Union force, but still hold territory in the countryside.