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Somalia lawmakers vote to extend presidential term for up to two years

AFRICA
By Reuters | April 13th 2021
Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed whose term was extended by MPs yesterday. [File, Standard]

Somalia’s lower house of parliament yesterday voted to extend the president’s term for another two years to let the country prepare for direct elections, the speaker of the chamber said.

Mohamed Mursal Sheikh said 149 lawmakers voted for the proposal, one rejected it and three abstained.

The move underscores widening divisions after extending the four-year term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who faces growing pressure to quit after his term ended.

It was unclear if the motion still had to pass the senate. Senator Ayub Ismail Yusuf told Reuters the lower house had the authority to decide on elections but Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan from the opposition disagreed.

Earlier in the day, Mogadishu’s police chief announced he had suspended parliament, saying he was acting unilaterally to prevent lawmakers from extending the president’s term, only to be fired moments later by the police commissioner via Facebook.

Parliament was supposed to elect a new president on February 8, but the exercise was delayed because new lawmakers have yet to be picked by elders.

“We have stopped the parliament session today. We have a responsibility bigger than a personal one. We have to solve anything that can bring violence and war in Mogadishu,” Mogadishu police chief Saadaq Omar Hassan told local television station Universal in a live speech. “The four-year term has ended.”

Moments later, Somalia’s police commissioner Hassan Mohamed Hijar announced on Facebook that Mr Hassan had been fired and replaced.

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Somalia’s lower house of parliament yesterday voted to extend the president’s term for another two years. [Courtesy]

Opponents of President Mohamed, who is seeking a second term, accuse him of packing his supporters into the regional and national boards who choose the legislators.

Talks between the president, opposition leaders, and diplomats to fix a new date for elections have been intermittent and inconclusive.

The presidents of Jubbaland and Puntland, two of Somalia’s five semi-autonomous states, have refused to participate, arguing Mohamed must not chair the talks as he is no longer president.

POLITICAL SQUABBLING

Donors, including the United Nations and the European Union, will not support any “new initiatives leading to any extension of prior mandates,” in an apparent reference to the president’s expired term, they said in a joint statement on Saturday.

The political squabbling and divisions in the security services are undermining the fight against the Islamist Al Shabaab insurgency, analysts warn.

The group, which is allied to al Qaeda, wants to topple the government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

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