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Lawmakers in Mogadishu prepare to elect 10th Somali President

Sunday May 15, 2022

The Afisioni Tent where Somali lawmakers will elect a new president on Sunday.

Mogadishu (HOL) - 328 lawmakers in Somalia will converge on Afisioni Tent in Mogadishu airport's heavily fortified hangar to elect the nation's tenth president since independence in 1960.

The indirect election - which has been delayed for over a year and a half - will take place under heightened security in the capital.

Police have announced a 33-hour curfew that has made the ordinarily busy Sunday morning rush hour come to a standstill. The number of checkpoints has been multiplied. Residents are ordered to stay home until 6:00 a.m. on Monday - although residents will likely be out in the streets to celebrate their candidate's victory.

ATMIS, the successor to the African Union Mission in Somalia, has been tasked by the joint-parliamentary committee organizing the presidential elections to take charge of the security arrangements for the poll, which may lead into Sunday evening. 

Somalia's parliamentary speaker, Aden Madobe, assured Somali media groups that they would be given access to the voting hall after security officials prevented independent journalists from entering the airport hangar during the presidential speeches on Wednesday. Journalists have said that they would not cover the elections if they are not granted access.

Incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo will face off against 37 other candidates in a hotly contested election, including some of the most well-known names in Somali politics. Two candidates dropped out of the race this week ahead of Sunday's poll.

Fawzia Yusuf Adam is the only female candidate in the election.

Among the front runners are two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud; Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni, former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and Former Minister of National Planning Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame.

Unless a candidate can secure two-thirds of the total vote, there will be three rounds in the election.

Analysts agree that it is unlikely for any candidate to secure a 'knockout' win with two-thirds of the vote in the opening round of voting. In previous elections, candidates who have not secured enough votes to advance to the later stages of the election will endorse a front-runner and persuade his voter base to support the new candidate.  These alliances and backroom dealings are made in the days and hours leading up to the election, with reports of tens of thousands of dollars exchanging hands per MP.

While Farmajo will likely advance to the second round, several analysts also agree that he faces an uphill battle as no Somali president has ever been re-elected back into office. Going into the contentious election, a broad coalition of presidential candidates vowed to band together to ensure his removal from office, including coalescing around a single candidate. 

According to the security guidelines laid out by the organizing committee, incumbent president Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo will enter the polling station with three people: one bodyguard (soldier), a protocol chief, and a clerk who will oversee the vote counting on his behalf.

The 7th and 8th presidents - Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud - will be allowed to enter with two people, their protocol chief and a clerk.

All other candidates have been instructed to leave their security teams and vehicles at the Madina Gate. From there, they will be loaded onto vans and escorted to the polling stations. 

Anyone entering the polling station, including the 274 MPs and 54 Senators, presidential candidates and their guests, will be barred from carrying electronic devices or cash.

Somalia's next President will face a litany of immediate problems to tackle. This year's elections are being held against the backdrop of the worst drought in 40 years. The UN has warned that six million Somalis - or 40 percent of the population - are now facing extreme hunger levels.

Al-Shabaab, an Al Qaeda-linked militant insurgency group waging a deadly war against Somalia's internationally-backed government for over a decade, has proved to be a resilient guerilla force with influence over large swaths of land in the south and central Somalia. The group is able to extract resources, either livestock or cash - from local populations and use the regions as a base to plot attacks against the Somali government and African Union forces.

During the campaign, several candidates, particularly the front runners, made lofty promises, including completing the provisional constitution and universal suffrage for all Somalis in the 2026 presidential election. 


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