NAIROBI, KENYA - Security has been tightened in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, before Wednesday’s presidential election. The run-up to the vote has been tumultuous with repeated delays and allegations of corruption.
The presidential vote has been postponed four times, but Wednesday parliament is expected to finally gather at the Mogadishu international airport, chosen for security reasons, and elect the country’s next leader.
The polls have been messy at best, mired in accusations of widespread vote buying. Seats in parliament allegedly went for thousands of dollars each late last year.
VOA’s Somali service spoke to former Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, who expects better during Wednesday’s vote.
"We do not believe that the current parliament of the two houses are not patriotic, are not loyal to their people and their country. We believe that they will overcome. We believe that the challenges coming from the corruption mispractices, intimidation and harassment will be defeated by the current two houses of the parliament," he said.
Somalia cannot hold direct nationwide elections due to ongoing insecurity and logistical issues, like the lack of a national census. So parliamentary members were elected by select clan leaders and regional representatives.
The presidential candidates debated Monday before parliament. Running for re-election, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said the next polls will be better.
The president said, “We will build a national system that is democratic and represents Somalis. The system will lead to a formation of political parties, not a system made up of clans, region, and groups. I will lead the country to one man, one vote system in the year 2020.”
But former Mogadishu mayor and presidential candidate Mohamud Tarzan Nur said he did not like what he saw during the debate.
Nur said, “The people of Somalia are hopeful. They want you to listen to the presidential candidates and elect who is qualified to lead." He said the chamber was almost empty, "It is sad and it seems those who are not here have already made up their mind who they are going to vote for.”
The incumbent is expected to get stiff competition from his predecessor, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
With so many candidates, the voting is expected to require multiple rounds Wednesday. Somali media has been abuzz for days with reports of candidates forming alliances, pledging support if eliminated.
Some presidential hopefuls have been accused of bribing lawmakers to vote for them.
During the lower house elections, some candidates’ names were removed from the list and races had to be re-run after corruption and other electoral offenses were detected.
The chairman of the independent anti-corruption committee Professor Abdi Ismail Samatar said Monday the committee is on alert.
He said for a credible result, the process must be transparent. He added Somalia must reduce corruption and lawmakers need to be transparent in their actions, and if lawmakers observe others receiving and taking bribes, they need to report them to the relevant authorities to take action.
But analysts say candidates will also be peddling influence. Power-sharing agreements and cabinet posts will be valuable bargaining chip as votes are cast.