Somalia delays regional vote


Somalia’s South West state will delay a key presidential vote for the third time because it is not sufficiently prepared, the semi-autonomous region’s election committee said.

Tensions between the federal government and state authorities mounted in recent weeks after Mogadishu tried to block the candidacy of former al Shabaab Islamist militant Mukhtar Robow.
“After the committee evaluated many awaiting activities, available time and the incomplete tasks to be completed within a short time frame it decided the election date will be 19 December,” a committee statement said.

The original date for the election was November 17 before a postponement to November 28 and then to December 5.

South West is slated to be the first of Somalia’s seven semi-autonomous regions to hold presidential elections in the coming months, a critical juncture in a growing power struggle between central government in Mogadishu and the states.

The postponement in South West state came a day after central government deployed federal police officers to Baidoa, the state capital, to help “tighten security”, said Hassan Hussein, South West state security minister.

Further deployments would be made to prevent al Shabaab destabilising the election, Hussein told reporters.
“There is an election and what is required is an election to take place peacefully. The enemy al Shabaab often tries to terrify the peace of South West state,” Hussein said.

Somalia has been trying to claw its way out of the remnants of the civil war that engulfed it in 1991 when clan warlords overthrew a dictator and then turned on each other.

Al Shabaab has been fighting for more than a decade to topple central government and implement its interpretation of Islamic law.

In November, over half South West’s election committee resigned, accusing central government of interfering in the vote and attempting to install a preferred candidate.

Matt Bryden, head of the Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research, said there were legitimate technical issues surrounding the vote, but the delay and police deployment were making the situation increasingly tense.
“The situation is increasingly unpredictable and I wouldn’t rule out the risk of violence in the coming days. If that happens the situation could develop in any direction,” Bryden told Reuters.