Somalia imposes election curfew in capital

Somali police declared a curfew in the capital Mogadishu on Saturday citing security concerns as they banned all public activity except emergency services until the long-running presidential election on Sunday.

With dozens of candidates competing for the top position in the troubled Horn of Africa nation, which is battling an Islamist insurgency and threat of famine, the election is already far behind.

“The movement of vehicles, people and motorbikes will be banned from 14 May 2022 from around 09:00 pm,” police spokesman Abdifatah Aden Hasan said at a news conference in Mogadishu.

“After the elections, the restrictions will be lifted on the morning of May 16, 2022,” he said.

The vote is expected to draw a line under the political crisis that began in February 2021, when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s term ended without a new election.

Somalia’s international partners have long warned that the delay due to political infighting was a dangerous distraction from the fight against al-Shabaab jihadists.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants controlled Mogadishu until 2011, when they were repulsed by an African Union force, but still occupied territory in the countryside and carried out frequent attacks in the capital and beyond.

The parliamentary committee that organized the vote said on Tuesday that the African Union force ATMIS would be responsible for the security of the election site inside the heavily guarded Mogadishu airport.

Along with former presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamed, as well as former prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire, President Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, is among 39 candidates in the race.

Puntland’s state president said Abdullahi Dani and former foreign minister Fauzia Youssef Aden – the lone female contender – are also vying for the job.

One person, one vote has not been elected in Somalia in 50 years. Instead, elections follow a complex indirect model, whereby the state legislature and clan representatives elect MPs to the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.

The election can take several hours and is likely to drag on until late into the night, with multiple rounds of voting expected as candidates drop out, narrowing down options until a winner is chosen.

The winner must have the support of two-thirds of parliament, which requires a minimum of 184 votes.

The candidates have vowed to address Somalia’s many problems and provide relief to citizens weary of al-Shabaab jihadist violence, skyrocketing inflation and drought that has driven millions of people to famine.

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