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Somalia to swear in new parliament

Monday, August 20, 2012

Embattled country's transition officially ends on Monday, with MPs next tasked with choosing a speaker and president.

Somalia will move one step closer to a new government on Monday, as 225 members of the country's committee-selected parliament are set to be sworn in.

The parliament will eventually have 275 members, but the committee tasked with approving MPs has said 225 are enough to hold crucial votes for speaker and president by secret ballot.

About 24 candidates are running to become Somalia's first post-transition president who, once elected sometime in the near future, will then choose a prime minister.

Many of the candidates for president - including current President Sharif Ahmed, Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali and the parliament speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden - already serve in a government that has been tainted by corruption allegations.

Security has been tightened across the capital ahead of the vote with police and military troops patrolling the streets.

The UN and other international partners helping the political process said on Sunday that Somalia faces an unprecedented opportunity for greater peace and stability.

"The conclusion of the Transition should mark the beginning of more representative government in Somalia,'' a statement from international partners, including the US and EU, said. `

"Whilst parliament remains a selected rather than elected body, it is essential that it cuts its ties with the past of self-interest and warlordism, and is populated by a new generation of Somali politicians, including the proper representation of Somali women."

Decades of chaos 

The Horn of Africa nation has lacked a stable central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Siad Barre in 1991, which unleashed a bloody civil war and two decades of chaos.

While the government until recently controlled only a few blocks of Mogadishu, African Union and other troops have since made key territorial gains in their fight against al-Shabab fighters.

With better security, members of the Somali diaspora have returned to invest in their battered homeland, and many now hope that a new government will help the war-torn country stabilise and recover.

In that process, a "technical selection committee" - charged with ratifying new MPs from a list chosen by a group of 135 traditional elders -  published the names of the first of 275 new legislators late on Friday.

The committee rejected some 70 nominees because they did not meet the requirements to serve in parliament.

Legislators must be Somali citizens of sound mind, have a high school diploma and be free of ties to warlords or links to
atrocities committed during the country's civil war.

The transition process is also laden with inter-clan tensions. Under the agreement, each of Somalia's four main clan families - the Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Rahanweyn - named 30 members to the group of elders nominating the members of parliament.

The remaining 15 were drawn from a coalition of minority groups.

President Ahmed told Al Jazeera in an interview in Mogadishu that the technical selection committee should not overstep their mandate.

"The technical selection committee was given certain criteria to vet names presented to them. They don't have a right arbitrarily, to choose those on the list and who to reject," he said on Saturday.

"If there's a problem, members of the technical committee should go back to the council of elders, but it is unacceptable for them to overstep their mandate."

Alexander Rondos, the European Union's special representative to the Horn of Africa, was in Mogadishu on Sunday for an urgent meeting.

"We are in Mogadishu to show support because, finally, this is where the future of Somalia is being decided by Somalis," he said, in statements on behalf of Somalia’s international community partners, including the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

"The international community welcomes the important progress that Somalia's leaders and people have made in getting to this stage," he said.

The new parliament - comprising a 275-member lower house and a yet-to-be-launched upper house with a maximum of 54 members - is tasked with electing the president, the speaker and two deputy speakers.

It will be allowed to go ahead with voting Monday if a quorum of more than two-thirds of the lower house - 184 members - is present. 

The new president will then appoint a prime minister, who in turn will form a council of ministers.

- Additional reporting from Nazanine Moshiri in Mogadishu


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