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Somalia again misses deadline to complete lower house elections

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MOGADISHU: Somalia has again pushed back the deadline for completing lower house elections, a process that is already more than a year overdue and has resulted in political sanctions.

The electoral committee announced late on Tuesday that it was delaying the elections until March 31, further delaying the vote for a new president and prolonging a political crisis in a country also facing drought and an insurgency.

Only three of Somalia’s five states had selected their representatives by deadline, according to election officials.

Some 39 of 275 seats remained unfilled in Hirshabelle, Jubaland, and Puntland states.

The Federal Election Implementation Team (FEIT) said these vacancies would be filled by the end of the month and the “official final results” of the lower and upper house ballots announced on March 31.

All elected representatives would be sworn into office in Mogadishu on April 14, the election committee said in its latest revised timetable.

Elections for lower and upper house lawmakers were supposed to be completed before President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s term expired in February 2021.

The two chambers of parliament in turn choose a president, and until representatives for both are elected and sworn in the vote cannot proceed.

But political infighting has stymied the process, and the president’s mandate expired without a vote having taken place.

Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, tried to extend his rule by decree but faced protests and violent opposition in Mogadishu where rival political factions fought on the streets.

He appointed his prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, to broker a consensus on a way forward, but disagreements between the two men hindered progress.

Somalia’s key foreign backer, the United States, has imposed travel sanctions on key political figures for “obstructionist actions” and expressed disappointment when the latest deadline was missed on Tuesday.

The international community has warned the election impasse distracts from Somalia’s other pressing problems, most notably its worst drought in decades and a persistent and violent insurgency waged by Al-Shabab.

Somalia has not held a one-person-one-vote election in 50 years.

The process under way at the moment follows a complex indirect model used in previous ballots, where state legislatures and thousands of clan delegates choose MPs and senators.

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