Somalia ‘must hold presidential vote without delay’

Somalia’s newly chosen parliamentary speaker must ensure presidential elections take place without delay, diplomats and the country’s UN representative said Wednesday, as they welcomed him into the powerful post.

The United Nations-backed process to set up a new administration — which will culminate in lawmakers choosing the country’s new president — is the latest bid to end two decades of instability in the Horn of Africa nation.

Veteran politician and former minister Mohamed Osman Jawari, a legal expert who helped draft a new constitution for Somalia, was elected speaker on Tuesday by fellow lawmakers.

“This is a moment of progress and optimism”, UN special representative for Somalia Augustine Mahiga said in a statement, calling for presidential elections to take place “within 10 days”.

There is no fixed timetable for the vote, having already missed an August 20 deadline, and bitter arguments have begun between challengers for the country’s top job, divided along Somalia’s notoriously fractious clan lines.

“We urge the Speaker Jawari to organise elections for the next president without delay,” US ambassador to Somalia James Swan said in a statement, praising the “historic election” of the speaker.

Alex Rondos, European Union Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, said Jawari’s election was “another positive step forward”, calling for a timetable for the presidential vote to be quickly set out.

Somalia’s new parliament, whose members are selected by a group of traditional elders, will vote for the country’s next president in a secret ballot.

Somalia is trying to set up its first stable central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, which sparked rounds of bloody civil war.



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