Somalia's new parliament holds first session after weeks of voting

Somalia's new parliament Wednesday held its first session after weeks-long elections, re-electing veteran legal expert Mohamed Osman Jawari as its speaker in a session broadcast live on Somali National Television.

Only 259 of the 275 parliamentary seats were filled, because some legislators had not yet been elected or taken office in the country's tumultuous elections, which started on November 5.

Due to the continuous threat from the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab and weak electoral infrastructure, Somalia had decided against a "one-person-one-vote" election.

Instead of giving eligible voters from Somalia's population of 11 million people the right to vote, electoral colleges - whose 14,025 members were chosen by traditional leaders - picked the members of the legislative assembly.

Delays in voting were attributed to clan disputes involving the traditional leaders.

The elections were also marred by allegations of vote-buying and intimidation.

Parliament is now due to elect a successor to President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud in the coming weeks.

Political analyst Mohamed Sheikh Mohamud said that because citizens could not vote for MPs directly, "Somali politicians had to share out the seats between rival clans."

Security was beefed up during the parliamentary session, with Mogadishu's main roads in a complete lockdown.

The new parliament will face the challenges of consolidating the fledgling democracy, of diversifying an economy still largely dependent on livestock and money transfers from Somalis living abroad, and – above all – of defeating al-Shabaab.

The elections are the second polls since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre plunged the Horn of Africa nation into anarchy as warlords carved out clan-based fiefdoms.

Last update: Wed, 11/01/2017 - 15:41
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