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Somali Lawmakers to Elect a New President Friday

Somali parliamentarians are set to elect a new president Friday to replace former President Abdullahi Yusuf who reportedly resigned under international pressure. The new president would lead the troubled Transitional Federal government and ensure peace and stability despite increasing Islamic insurgents attacks. Friday's election comes after opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) were sworn in Wednesday after a Somali legislative meeting in Djibouti voted to endorse the extension of the transitional period of the Somali government for another two years. Mohammed Hassan Daryeel, a Somali member of parliament, told reporter Peter Clottey that moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed seems to be the leading presidential candidate.

"I think about 15 presidential candidates are going to be participating in the election and all the necessary arrangements have been finalized by the electoral committee. The election is going to be held today (Friday), and hopefully we are going to make an important step towards peace and establishing a government of national unity of Somalia to carry a lot of responsibility in order to engage all Somali people towards peace and stability and create the needed peace for the Somali society," Daryeel pointed out.

He said the leader of the opposition Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) seems to be popular among parliamentarians despite stiff challenge from Prime Minister Nur Hasssan Hussein.

"According to the speeches of all the presidential candidates that we have heard and according to the reaction of the MP's and the participant, etcetera, the most likely candidate to win today's election is Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia," he said.

Daryeel said Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed seems to have what it takes to unify all Somalis.

"I think due to various aspects like from the security dimension, from political dimension, from economic dimension and according to the challenges on the ground he is the most popular. Most people have endorsed based on all these issues and are willing to vote for him. Also according to ordinary Somalis, including the media, everybody is preparing for Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to be the president," Daryeel noted.

He said the leader of the ARS addressed the challenges of insecurity among other concerns during his speech to members of the newly expanded parliament who would be voting to elect a new president.

"In terms of his agenda he addressed the challenges on the ground including the Islamic insurgents. Since he is also an Islamist he said Islam is not a violent religion and added that there are some ideological problems that the insurgents are using to attack ordinary Somalis that need to be addressed. He said he has the experience and chronicled his rule under the ICU (Islamic Court Union) within which they were able to deal with piracy and insecurity. He said he has the experience to be the president and asked to be given the chance and most of the MP'S were applauding. I think if nothing drastic happens in the coming hours, he would be the president," he said.

Daryeel said the Somali members of parliament currently meeting in Djibouti are aware of the difficulties of insecurity and want the best candidate among the 15 presidential candidates to resolve the problems.

"All the MP's see on the ground that there are challenges and that there must be an approach to address them. And they see among all the other candidates based on the challenges on the ground he (Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed) is the most suitable candidate. This is the indication and the feeling they have and they are addressing that issue in that frame," Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed pointed out.

The Somali parliament which is currently meeting in Djibouti City also voted to extend by two years the transitional period of the interim Somali government whose original term of five years will end in seven months' time.

150 new members of parliament of the moderate Islamist Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) were sworn in Wednesday in Djibouti as part of an effort to bring former rebel opponents into the government.

Meanwhile, about 75 parliamentary seats are being kept vacant but will be allocated at a future date to those still to join, including members of civil society and opposition who are not members of the ARS.