Somalia's parliament elects new president

There are 14 candidates running in the election, which is being held in Djibouti because an Islamist group seized the parliament and presidency home.

Somalia's parliament elects new president

Somalia's parliament on Friday elects a new president.

There are 14 candidates running in the election, which is being held in neighbouring Djibouti because an Islamist group seized the parliament ad presidency home in capital of the country.

The Horn of Africa nation has had no central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

The president will be chosen by a new, expanded assembly which includes moderate Islamist opponents sworn in this week at a U.N.-brokered peace process in Djibouti.

The election is due to start at 1200 GMT and a series of ballots will whittle the field down to two for the final vote.

Candidates include the Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein, the moderate Islamist leader from the Islamist Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) and an array of current and former politicians, former warlords and members of the Somali diaspora.

Hussein and Sheik Sharif Ahmed from the ARS are generally seen as the frontrunners in a vote which may well be determined by the shifting clan alliances which pervade Somali politics.

International players see the more inclusive administration as an important step towards reaching out to opposition groups and hardline fighters who have shunned reconciliation so far.

But the government controls little more than a few blocks of the capital Mogadishu, thanks to African peackeeping troops, and Islamist al-Shabaab captured the seat of parliament this week.

Clashes between rival Islamists on Thursday killed more than 30 people and al-Shabaab has vowed to fight until it has established its strict version of Islamic law throughout Somalia.

Addressing parliament on Thursday, most of the candidates billed security as their top priority. Some wanted a strong army, some pledged to strengthen the role of Islam, and others said ditching the clan system was the only way out.

"Although there are strong expectations, we are all aware that years of war and violence, violations of human rights and corrupt practices will not disappear overnight," U.N. envoy Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah wrote in a letter to the Somali diaspora.

"It is up to you, the fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters to prevail on your children, your young brothers and friends to stop the violence. For the last 20 years, it has not helped any group to win lasting victory," he wrote this week.

Reuters
Last Mod: 30 Ocak 2009, 16:15
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