In Somalia, a new parliament, but presidential vote is delayed as gov’t mandate expires.

MOGADISHU, SomaliaSomalia’s chief justice on Monday swore in 215 new members of parliament, an accomplishment but one that fell far short of U.N. hopes that the Horn of Africa nation would seat a full 275-member parliament that would vote in a new president.

Monday — the last day of eight years of Somalia’s U.N.-backed Transitional Federal Government — was the day by which the U.N. repeatedly said a new president would be in place. But political bickering, violent threats and seat-buying schemes delayed progress, guaranteeing the day would come and go with no new leader in place.

Somalia has seen much progress over the last year. Al-Shabab militants were forced out of Mogadishu in August 2011, allowing businesses to thrive and the arts and sports to return.

However, Mogadishu politics remains an ugly business, as it did in 1991, when the country’s last legitimate president was ousted and the country spiraled into bloody chaos. The International Crisis Group said the current political process has been as undemocratic as the Transitional Federal Government structure it seeks to replace, “with unprecedented levels of political interference, corruption and intimidation.”

Somali elders were tasked with naming a parliament, since no election could be held given the state of security around the country. A technical committee disqualified several nominees.

“Some elders allegedly nominated uneducated and objectionable individuals, some sold seats to highest bidders, and others even nominated their own family members,” the International Crisis Group said.

Few of the allegations will surprise the international backers — the U.N., U.S. and EU — heavily involved in the political process. A report released in June written for the U.N. said that the last government was rife with corruption. The government allegedly protected a notorious pirate leader and deposited only $3 of every $10 received into state coffers. A report commissioned by the World Bank published in May similarly found that 68 percent of TFG revenues in 2009-10 were unaccounted for.

Monday’s swearing-in ceremony was moved to the highly protected airport at the last minute after members of parliament asked for increased security. Somali police and African Union troops patrolled around the airport, which adjoins an African Union military base and is the most secure location in the city.

“This historic moment marks the long-awaited end of the transitional period in Somalia. The new MPs, selected after broad-based, grass roots consultations and representing all of Somalia’s clans, have been successfully screened against objective criteria and are now ready to start their important work,” said Augustine Mahiga, the U.N. representative to Somalia.

Al-Shabab militants, though evicted from Mogadishu, still penetrate the seaside capital to carry out suicide attacks. One such attack took place earlier this month as Somali elders voted in a new internationally backed constitution that guarantees more rights for women and children. The bombers were stopped at the gates and no one except the two attackers was killed.

Source       AP

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