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Somali Lawmakers Elect  New President  - 2004-10-10


Members of Somalia's parliament gathered in Nairobi to elect the country's new president. Cathy Majtenyi is at the election site and reports results will be known shortly.

The election opened first with a prayer, then a request for prayers, that the day's proceedings would run smoothly, fairly, and that the best candidate would win.

The 25 men and one woman vying for the top post sat as a group on the lower level of Kasarani Sports Stadium in Nairobi.

Across from them on the other side of the stadium, diplomats, members, and observers of the seven-nation grouping Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, which has facilitated the peace talks leading up to the election, witnessed the proceedings.

Further up the stands sat almost all of the 275 members of parliament, who throughout the day cast their ballots in three rounds of voting.

A Member of Parliament for Mogadishu, Abdulkadir Nur Arale, says he has three candidates in mind who he thinks would make a good president for Somalia.

"The one we want to elect for the position of the president of the Somali republic should be someone who is capable of restoring peace and unity and security within Somalia and also within the neighboring countries," he said. "One who can bring together the divided society and can have the quality of leadership they need right at this time."

Mr. Arale said he worries whether he and the other parliament members will choose the most competent candidate and whether they might later regret their choice.

The election brings to a close two years of a peace process in Kenya in which 23 factional leaders, civil society representatives, traditional elders, and others came together to write a new charter for the country and pick a new government.

Somalia fell into anarchy after former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991. Since then, groups based on clan and sub-clan affiliations have controlled different parts of the country through the strength of their militias, with no central government to provide law, order, and resources to the people.

There are fears some of the candidates might reject the results of Sunday's election and could cause trouble if they do not agree with the final choice.

First deputy speaker Mohammed Omar Dalha says the electoral commission has taken steps to ensure this will not happen.

"Today we want to sign the declaration from the presidential candidates declaring that they will respect the outcome of the election, and the international community will be witness for that, and the media is there," he said.

Before the parliament members voted, the presidential candidates signed the declaration and took an oath, one hand on the Qu'ran, vowing that they would accept the result.

The winner of Somalia's presidential election is expected to be announced late Sunday.