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Decision on New Somali Parliament Delayed

Friday, July 13, 2012
A constituent assembly tasked with choosing the members of Somalia's next parliament will not convene on schedule, due to tribal elders' concerns about the country's draft constitution.  In what appears to be a play for more political power, the elders are withholding the names of candidates for the new assembly.

An 825-member National Constituent Assembly representing a broad range of Somali political factions was scheduled to meet Thursday in Mogadishu to begin its work selecting members of Somalia's parliament.

But a council of tribal elders responsible for selecting members of the constituent assembly have refused to release the names.

Mohamed Hassan Haad, the chairman of the Hawiye clan elders, said this is a way for the elders to exert more influence over the transition process.

"Actually we have all the names," Haad  said, "but elders were saying to each other if they present the names everything will be in the hands of the parliament and nothing will remain for the elders to talk and be consulted about."

Haad adds that the elders are particularly concerned about a draft constitution, written in consultation with the United Nations.  In a previous VOA interview he said that elders take issue with sections granting women the right to run for high office and that the draft does not specify a capital city.

According to the U.N.-backed "Roadmap" process for ending the political transition, it is the parliament that will decide whether to approve the constitution, not the elders.

Haad added that the elders are getting mixed signals from the U.N. and the other signatories to the Roadmap.

"They say that the elders have an important role to select better people for the next government," said Haad.  "On the other hand they say we aren't doing what we're supposed to do.  We don't see our role the way they see it."

A diplomatic source familiar with the discussions told VOA the constituent assembly likely will be delayed until July 22 or 23.

The source said once the parliament is formed, the transition should be completed on time, emphasizing that all parties are still adamant about the August 20 deadline for lawmakers to elect a president.


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