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Confidence Vote Looming for Somali Interim Government

Somali interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi and his government are expected to face a confidence vote in parliament this week, heightening speculation that Somalia's political leadership may soon change. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, a political rift between the prime minister and President Abdullahi Yusuf has widened in recent weeks.

Parliament members from across Somalia have been arriving in Baidoa, the base of the Transitional Federal Government, to take part in the confidence vote.

Several members of parliament, who are against extending Ali Mohamed Gedi's three-year tenure as prime minister, introduced the motion. They accuse the Somali leader of, among other things, misappropriating public funds and doing little to halt insecurity in Mogadishu.

Sources in parliament tell VOA that Prime Minister Gedi has a number of supporters among the 275 parliament members. But the prime minister is also facing a large number of opponents, who have urged interim President Abdullahi Yusuf to name a new prime minister.

Through President Yusuf's support, Prime Minister Gedi survived two previous no-confidence votes in parliament. But it is widely believed that President Yusuf is now backing the anti-Gedi lawmakers.

Relations between the president and the prime minister grew bitter last month, after Mr. Gedi dismissed a close political ally of the president. The incident erupted into a political crisis, which required the mediation of neighboring Ethiopia.

Sources close to President Yusuf say he has already prepared a list of possible candidates for the post of prime minister. One of the leading candidates is said to be a highly-respected technocrat.

But to appoint a political outsider, an amendment must first be made in the interim law that prohibits non-parliamentarians from holding the post of prime minister or membership in Cabinet. President Yusuf is expected to propose a change in the law this week.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Gedi has been seeking to shore up support among members of his Hawiye clan, which has a long history of rivalry with President Yusuf's Darod clan.

Earlier this week, the prime minister held meetings with influential Hawiye elders in Mogadishu, who had opposed the Gedi government for allowing Ethiopian troops to remain in Somalia after they helped the government seize power from the Islamic Courts Union nine months ago.

Prime Minister Gedi said the talks have led to a truce with the elders and they have agreed to work with his administration to help curb a violent Islamist-led anti-government insurgency that has devastated the country.

But Hawiye clan member Abudllahi Sheik Hassan in Mogadishu tells VOA that many people in his clan have already lost faith in the government.

"No, they are not supporting Gedi," he said. "He has failed. For three years he has been prime minister here. He has failed politically, militarily, economically. The Islamic Courts, they will continue fighting. So, there is no peace here."

On Tuesday, the former deputy security chief for the Islamic Courts Union, Muktar Robow, said that the insurgency against the interim government would not end unless Somalia returned to being an Islamic state.

The radical Islamist is a close ally of Adan Hashi Ayro, an al-Qaida trained militant who founded the Mogadishu-based youth group called the Shabbab. After months in hiding, both men recently resurfaced in the Somali capital.