Somalia prepares for first presidential elections in Mogadishu.

The presidential election campaign in Somalia has started in earnest with 21 candidates vying for Villa Somalia — the presidential palace in Mogadishu.

Holding the elections in Mogadishu will be an historic victory for the people of Somalia, said Abdirashid Abdi Ahmed, programme producer for UN-funded Radio Bar-Kulan based in Nairobi.

He told Sabahi that this election is particularly significant because over the past years the transitional governments have been formed outside of the country. For the first time since the civil war began, the leaders of both houses of parliament and the president will be elected from within the parliament building in Mogadishu.

Ajoos Sanuura, deputy commander of the Somali police, said that holding the presidential elections in Mogadishu is something spectacular and a source of motivation for security forces to follow through with efforts to spread stability and security throughout Somalia.

“Mogadishu is witnessing unprecedented political activity and intensive meetings between Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and tribal leaders to bring them towards ratifying the constitution and to elect members of the federal parliament,” Sanuura told Sabahi.

The candidates

Ahmed announced his candidacy for a second term as president on April 25th to continue to implement the security and political programmes that he said have proven successful in bringing down al-Shaabab. He has also promised to make government institutions and the judiciary fully operational, paving the way for reconstruction efforts throughout the country to boost the economy.

Nonetheless, Ahmed said he welcomed competition for the presidency. “I am quite happy to see the candidates arrive at the capital to take part in a close and highly competitive race for the presidential seat, as each candidate announces his political programme with confidence as integrity and fairness of the elections are preserved,” Ahmed said in June.

After the members of the National Constituent Assembly are chosen and the draft constitution is approved, the members of parliament will then elect the speaker and two deputies by August 4th, and the president by August 20th, according to the current timetable.

However, some political analysts and politicians say Ahmed’s decision to seek a second five-year term has changed the dynamics of the race. Many leaders are of the opinion that Ahmed, and Speaker Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aadan, will have an advantage as they seek to hold office and retain control of government.

Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, a member of the transitional parliament and a presidential hopeful, said the president has a significant advantage as the incumbent.

In addition to Warsame, the current president, speaker of parliament and Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, the following are among a number of candidates vying for the presidency: former prime minister Mohamed Abdullahi Farmaajo, veteran diplomat Abdullahi Mohamed Adow, former military figure and moderate Islamist Abdirahman Mohamed Badiyoow, professor Ahmed Mumin Warfa, businessman Hajj Mohamed Yasin, professor Ahmed Ismail Samatar, former academic and teacher at a local university in Mogadishu Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, parliamentarian and former minister Mohamed Mohamud Guled , and parliamentarian Mohamed Qanyare Afrah.

The Somali president said that each candidate has to bear in mind that he will deal with a destroyed country, a fragile economy, and a wounded nation that has been plagued by wars and drought.

“Politics is not about craving the presidential position in and of itself while leaving the other political positions in service of the country vacant,” he said.

Civil society activist Zeytoon Ibrahim said there needs to be transparency in the elections to prevent candidates from paying for votes, thereby pushing other candidates out of the race.

She noted that the international community has demanded the transitional period come to an endpeacefully and democratically, moving towards comprehensive federal rule that encompasses all segments of Somali society.

Internet influencing the campaign

Somali political analysts say some candidates living outside Somalia are taking advantage of the internet to help spread their ideas and agendas, which has also lead to the high number of potential candidates.

Professor Ahmed Ali, who specialises in political affairs and conflict resolution, told Sabahi that this round of presidential elections has twice as many as candidates than the transitional presidential elections of 2000, 2004 and 2009, which each included no more than 15 candidates.

Dahir Mohamud, a political and social analyst, said the internet allows candidates to express to a broader audience their opinions, ideas and aspirations, which was not possible during the previous Somali presidential elections in Djibouti and Kenya.

“What has been really pleasing lately is the level of awareness regarding the nation’s future and its worries, as the majority of Somalis expressed their interest in working with loyalty towards a democratic and federal Somalia,” Mohamud told Sabahi. “This raises confidence in the future of Somalia, regardless of who will take office in Villa Somalia or his political [leaning].”

Source: Sabahi Online

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