Legislators set to vote in long-stalled Somali presidential election

Leader will have to grapple with crises such as hunger, drought, inflation and climate

A  Somali MP exits a voting booth in Garowe in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region back in 2014.  The presidential election takes place  this  Sunday. Photograph: AFP via Getty

A Somali MP exits a voting booth in Garowe in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region back in 2014. The presidential election takes place this Sunday. Photograph: AFP via Getty

 

A record 39 candidates are running for Somalia’s long-awaited presidential election, which will take place on Sunday after being stalled for more than a year because of disputes about the process involved.

Somalia – with a population of about 16.3 million – has an indirect system where parliamentarians are elected by clan leaders, and they then elect the president. Some 329 legislators will vote on Sunday. The candidates include former presidents and ministers, and one woman, former foreign minister Fawzia Yusuf Haji Adam.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as “Farmajo”, is seeking a second term as president. In April 2021, his attempt to extend his four-year leadership by two years triggered armed clashes. Recent months have seen public disputes between the president and prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, including about the role of the African Union’s special representative for Somalia, Francisco Madeira, whom Mr Roble declared persona non grata.

Al-Shabaab influence

The International Monetary Fund was expected to cut off budget support if a new government was not in place by May 17th.

Fears of violence around the election have led to the price of an AK47 gun more than doubling over the last year, rising by nearly 40 per cent in the last few months, according to research done by news outlet the New Humanitarian.

Large swathes of Somalia’s territory also remain under the control of al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab, which has made efforts to destabilise the electoral process, including by attempting to shell Somalia’s parliament.

Somalia’s new leader will have to contend with a series of crises, which civilians say have been worsened by the political problems.

The country is suffering through the worst drought in decades after the failure of three consecutive rainy seasons. About six million people are thought to be experiencing extreme levels of food insecurity, with famine conditions likely in six areas.

Environmentally vulnerable

The effects of drought are also being felt in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia, with more than 14 million people already on “the verge of starvation”, according to the International Rescue Committee, which works in the region.

Food and fuel prices across Africa have seen a significant increase as a result of the Ukraine conflict. Somalia also ranks as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

According to the UN, 2.9 million Somalis are displaced overall; and other health indicators are poor, suggesting that one in eight Somali children dies before their fifth birthday, and one in 100 women dies due to pregnancy-related complications.

In April, an Irish Aid spokesperson said €5.15 million of direct humanitarian funding had been contributed to Somalia so far in 2022, while a further €600,000 has been allocated towards removing land mines in the country.