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Somalia's Parliament Votes Out Prime Minister

FILE - Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 22, 2017, at U.N. headquarters.
FILE - Somalia Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre addresses the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 22, 2017, at U.N. headquarters.

Somalia’s parliament has removed Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre in an unexpected vote of no-confidence, the speaker of parliament said.

Holding a press conference Saturday after the voting, the speaker, Mohamed Mursal Abdurahman, accused the government of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre of “ineffectiveness.”

“One hundred and seventy lawmakers favored the motion against the prime minister, and only 8 lawmakers opposed,” the speaker of parliament, announced. “Therefore, the motion has passed, and we urge Somalia's president to appoint a new prime minister.”

The speaker has accused Prime Minister Khayre and his government of not fulfilling promises they made to the nation.

“The government has failed to fulfill its national promises, including holding one man - one vote elections, and establishing a national security force capable of tightening the security,” the speaker said.

The unexpected vote came after what analysts have termed “the explosion of a long-awaited dispute” between the president and the prime minister on the model and the timing of the country’s upcoming elections.

Khayre, a dual Norwegian citizen and former Soma Oil Company executive, was not immediately available to respond to the action. He had been prime minister of the eastern African country since March 2017.

Immediately after the voting, Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as President Farmajo) said he accepted the decision by parliament to remove Khayre and that he will nominate a new prime minister.

“Any rift between the parliament, which is the base of our government, and the cabinet of ministers will weaken the progress made so far; therefore, to save that progress, I have decided to respect and accept the decision of the parliament,” the president said in a statement published on state radio's website.

Members of Khayre’s cabinet say they have rejected the parliament’s decision and described it as a political conspiracy against the government.

“The parliament members were meeting to debate an election law agenda when the speaker unexpectedly brought the issue of voting for a motion of no confidence against the government,” said Somalia’s minister of Internal Security, Mohamed Abukar Islow. “The vote did not go through legal parliamentary process and looked a conspiracy.”

Analysts say the action could be a big political setback for Somalia because it came a few months before the country’s elections.

“The voting was not timely and could derail the efforts to hold elections within the few remaining months,” said Abdirashid Hashi, executive director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies, a Mogadishu based independent, nonprofit research group.

“Now the ball is in the court of the president. He only has two options — to appoint a prime minister within the short period, who will also lead the nation into elections on time, or work on establishing an all-inclusive national unity government to avoid a vacuum,” Hashi said.

Ousting prime minsters

A Somali parliament firing a prime minister and differences between the president and the prime minister are nothing new in Somalia’s political culture.

Since the collapse of the former central military regime of Mohamed Siyad Barre, at least four presidents, going back to 2004, have had major problems with their prime ministers. Each president had three prime ministers in their respective single terms.

Of the more than 10 prime ministers the country has had since 2000, only two were not dismissed.

President Farmajo and former prime minister Hassan Ali Khayre were praised for avoiding such disputes for nearly four years now, but what seemed to be a minor difference between the two leaders escalated into an open feud this week when the two leaders attended a meeting in the central Somalia town of Dhusamareeb.

In that meeting, the country’s federal government leaders and leaders across the federal member states agreed to hold timely national elections, a move for which the prime minister campaigned.

Although the president did not openly oppose the agreement, his supporters and the speaker of the parliament wanted any decisions relating to elections to be made by the parliament, not by the federal government and state leaders. The tenure of the incumbent president and the two houses of the parliament expires later this year.

Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle contributed this report from Mogadishu.