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Somali Election Process Drags On

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VOA — NAIROBI Somalia’s presidential elections were scheduled for November 30, but the head of Somalia’s electoral body announced Monday they will be postponed.

In the country’s complicated election system, clan and regional delegates have elected roughly 50 percent of the members of the lower and upper houses of parliament.

The presidential election cannot take place until the remaining parliament members are selected. So it will take some more time before lawmakers determine Somalia’s next president, as specified in the Provisional Federal Constitution.

Nairobi-based Somalia affairs commentator Abdiwahab Sheikh Abdisamad says he understands the ongoing “selection process” must be rescheduled, but argues that it should happen soon.

“If the current selection process failed to conclude for the next 15 days, then legitimacy of the head of state, legitimacy of the members of parliament, legitimacy of the members of the senate will be in question,” said Abdisamad.

The head of Somalia’s electoral body said Monday the new president will be elected before the end of the year.

But allegations of bribery, intimidation and improper changes in delegations have plagued the electoral process.

Some people, like Abdi Samatar, a Somali-born economic geographer at the University of Minnesota, say such problems will definitely tarnish the results.

“If I was in a casino, God forbid that, but if I was in a casino, I would bet whatever little resources I have, and over the last 30 years that I have been working, that this will produce a corrupt regime, and will indeed produce more fragments of Somalia than the 2012 [election] or the ones prior to that,” said Samatar. “The level of corruption, culturally, politically, economically, is just beyond this world, frankly.”

Others, like Chatham House research associate Ahmed Soliman, admit corruption is a problem, but say there are some positive signs.

He gives the example of electoral authorities dismissing votes in some regions after officials were found not adhering to the 30 percent female representation quota.

“There are also positive signs just in the very nature of how this election is being followed and is being much more widely reported,” said Soliman. “And social media is being much more widely reported on. And social media is being used to tabulate and count every single seat and every single individual that comes into those seats. So there is a lot of scrutiny that is happening.”

Soliman believes that working on the electoral process is more important than adhering to a strict deadline, at this stage.

In the country’s electoral process, about 14,000 delegates representing Somalia’s clans are electing members to the 275-member lower house of parliament. Regional parliaments are selecting the 54-member upper house of parliament.

Somalia does not yet have a one-person, one-vote electoral system, though many citizens and experts hope that can be achieved in the near future.

Briefing Room

Diplomatic leaks: UAE dissatisfied with Saudi policies

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AL JAZEERA — Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) is working on breaking up Saudi Arabia, leaked documents obtained by Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar revealed.

Al Akhbar said that the leaked documents contained secret diplomatic briefings sent by UAE and Jordanian ambassadors in Beirut to their respective governments.

One of the documents, issued on September 20, 2017, disclosed the outcome of a meeting between Jordan’s ambassador to Lebanon Nabil Masarwa and his Kuwaiti counterpart Abdel-Al al-Qenaie.

“The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed is working on breaking up the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Jordanian envoy quoted the Kuwait ambassador as saying.

A second document, issued on September 28, 2017, reveals meeting minutes between the Jordanian ambassador and his UAE counterpart Hamad bin Saeed al-Shamsi.

The document said the Jordanian ambassador informed his government that UAE believes that “Saudi policies are failing both domestically and abroad, especially in Lebanon”.

“The UAE is dissatisfied with Saudi policies,” the Jordanian envoy said.

The Qatar vote
According to the leaks, UAE ambassador claims that Lebanon voted for Qatar’s Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari in his bid to become head of UNESCO in October 2017.

“[Lebanese Prime Minister Saad] Hariri knew Lebanon was voting for Qatar,” the UAE ambassador said in a cable sent to his government on October 18, 2017.

In November last year, Hariri announced his shock resignation from the Saudi capital Riyadh.

He later deferred his decision, blaming Iran and its Lebanese ally in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for his initial resignation. He also said he feared an assassination attempt.

Officials in Lebanon alleged that Hariri was held hostage by Saudi authorities, an allegation Hariri denied in his first public statement following his resignation speech.

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Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens

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BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.

Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.

The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.

Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.

“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.

Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.

SUSPICION, RESENTMENT

The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.

That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.

Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.

One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.

The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.

The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.

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Puntland President calls UAE continue its mission in Somalia

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