The Somali parliament announced that the long-awaited presidential election will finally take place on 15 May 2022 and that 329 lawmakers from both houses will elect the country's tenth president.
The election is well over a year behind schedule, marred by deadly violence as well as a power struggle between President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known as Farmajo, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.
The violence leading up to the election was caused by the rift between Mohamed, whose bid to extend his four-year presidency was thwarted by parliament last year, and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble, has divided security services.
Last week, forces loyal to Somalia President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed and those aligned with the political opposition exchanged gunfire in neighbourhoods of Mogadishu, including those in which opposition political leaders reside. Local sources indicate that the clashes resulted in approximately two dozen casualties and displaced hundreds of civilians.
A record of 39 candidates have registered for the race taking place on Sunday. In the absence of a functioning state, the voting system is based on a power-sharing formula. Somalia's four largest clans share an equal number of seats in parliament, while the smaller clans share half the allocation given to a larger clan.
Current president, Farmajo, is running again but has fallen out of favour with the public and international partners. Two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamed are the favourites. Fawzia Yusuf Adam,the only woman in the race, is regarded as an outsider. The organising committee has asked an already present African Union peacekeeping force to protect the hangar in Mogadishu. Last month, the peacekeepers faced off with local police during the elections for speaker of the upper and lower houses.
This election is of paramount importance as it will ensure the continued existence of a troubled state. In February, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned that its almost $400 million budget support program would not be extended unless legislative and presidential elections were completed by the middle of this month. The government cannot fund its budget or pay its soldiers without external support.
To add to the urgency, the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab, which has been fighting the government for over a decade, has staged frequent attacks in recent months, including a suicide bombing in March that killed two local lawmakers. The militants regularly strike at civilian, military, and government targets in Somalia's capital and elsewhere in the country.
A severe drought has affected about 90 per cent of Somalia’s land and a quarter of its 16 million population. It is its worst drought in a decade. More than 450,000 people in Somalia have been forced to abandon their homes in search of food and water in the first 10 weeks of 2022.
With the delaying electoral crisis, IMF, drought conditions and terrorist attacks, Somalians will have to choose a strong leader who will unite the country and tamper international fears of instability in order to tackle these monumental challenges.