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Somalian election proceeds under curfew

A Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, 7 February, 2017. Photo: REUTERS/Feisal Omar
MOGADISHU — Colorful campaign posters in this seaside capital give the impression that Somalia’s presidential election on Wednesday will be like any other. That’s far from true.

Mogadishu is in lockdown because of violence by homegrown Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab. The airport will be closed and the vote will be confined to a heavily protected former air force base.

Suicide bombings aren’t the biggest threat as this Horn of Africa country, after 25 years, tries to put a fully functioning government in place under strong international pressure.

 

Graft — vote-buying, fraud, intimidation — is the top concern in Somalia which Transparency International now rates as the most corrupt in the world.

“Somali clans have fought for many years so I will reconcile them so we have a government that will bring people together,” said candidate Mohamud Ahmed Nur Tarsan, a former Mogadishu mayor, promising to fight corruption and Islamist militants.

Candidates bidding for office in a race repeatedly delayed since August promised to improve security and the economy.

Most of the 23 hopefuls did not turn up for the debate, split between two sessions due to number of candidates. Voters complained that the debate was more of a question and answer session, that ignored people’s daily concerns.

Candidates were asked questions such as “why do you deserve to become president?” by a prominent journalist.

“I wish the questions were from citizens,” Ahmed Nur, from Baidoa.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had been due to take part in the afternoon debate, but had still not turned up as it began. He is seeking a second term after more than four years in office during which time he has faced criticism from the public and Western donors about corruption.

Major Osman Mohamed, a military officer who like other soldiers complains about delayed wages, said: “The best questions, which I am sure our lazy president can’t answer, is how to solve corruption and insecurity problems.”

An insurgency by Shabaab scuppered plans for each adult to have a vote, so Somalia’s 300 members of parliament will instead vote on the next president.

About a third of lawmakers, who were themselves picked by about 14,000 clan elders and regional figures, are loyal to the president’s Peace and Development Party, giving Mohamud an edge in the race but not enough to guarantee him victory.

Additional reporting Reuters

Category : MEDIA.
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