News24

Somali speaker candidates campaign

2012-08-27 18:00

Nairobi - Candidates for Somalia's powerful position of parliamentary speaker campaigned on Monday a day ahead of the expected vote, a key step in setting up a new government for the war-torn nation.

The United Nations-backed process, which has already selected the majority of a new parliament and will culminate in a vote for president, is the latest bid to end two decades of instability in the Horn of Africa nation.

Somalia has not had a stable central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, which sparked rounds of bloody civil war and decades of chaos.

"We are facilitating the timely implementation of this important political step," the UN political office for Somalia (UNPOS) said on Monday, adding it was hopeful the already-delayed vote would go ahead on Tuesday as planned.

Delays

Secret ballots in parliament for the posts of speaker and two deputy speakers have been delayed several times.

Bitter arguments have begun between challengers for the top jobs, divided along Somalia's notoriously fractious clan lines.

Six candidates are running for the post of speaker, including two former prime ministers, Hassan Abshir Farah and Ali Khalif Galayr, both from the Darod clan and the northern semi-autonomous Puntland region.

Mohamed Osman Jawari, a former minister under the regime of Siad Barre, from the Rahanweyn clan from the southern Baidoa region, is also running for the post.

The selection of speaker will impact the subsequent parliamentary vote for president, as Somali politics have traditionally tried to share out the seats between rival clans.

Around 260 of the new parliament's 275 members have been selected by a group of 135 traditional elders under the UN-backed process, the majority sworn into office last week on the tarmac of the capital's airport, protected by African Union troops.

The nearly 17 000-strong AU force has propped up Somalia's Western-backed leadership against attacks by the country's al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.

However, despite progress, the AU repeated warnings over the weekend that the political process "continues to be jeopardised by individuals determined to maintain Somalia in a state of chaos".