Somalia: Lawmakers to vote for new president

Women holding signs in support of Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed join in celebrations to mark the first year anniversary since the ouster of militant Al Shabaab fighters from the capital Mogadishu August 6, 2012.

Somalia’s 25 presidential hopefuls were campaigning ahead of an election due Monday, the final stage of a UN-backed process to set up a new administration for the war-torn country.

The election has been delayed several times – having already missed an August 20 deadline – but international pressure has increased on parliament to chose a president swiftly, setting the date for Monday.

“We are only days away from an historic presidential election,” UN special representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said earlier this week, praising efforts to “move forward to a new more legitimate and representative” system. Analysts have taken a far gloomier outlook on the process, suggesting it offers little but a reshuffling of key figures and positions.

Somalia has lacked an effective central government since president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, unleashing cycles of bloody conflict that have defied countless peace initiatives.

Ruthless warlords and militia groups including Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents have controlled mini-fiefdoms that African Union troops and other forces have only recently started to capture.

Outgoing president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in power since 2009, is one of the favourites, though he cuts a controversial figure with Western observers. A UN report in July said that under his presidency, “systematic embezzlement, pure and simple misappropriation of funds and theft of public money have become government systems” – claims Sharif has rejected.

Former prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, a US-educated economist, is also another strong candidate for the post. – Sapa-AFP

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