Somali political leaders OK presidential polls for Dec. 28

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2016 12:14 AM

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Somalia's political leaders say they have agreed to hold presidential polls on Dec. 28 after three delays and amid allegations of bribery, fraud and voter intimidation.

Presidential polls had been pushed back to Nov. 30, but the electoral commission last month announced they would be in December instead.

In a statement issued after political stakeholders met late Thursday, Somali leaders said they expected a new parliament to elect a speaker on Dec. 22 before parliament members elect a president Dec. 28.

The delays reflect the challenges of holding elections in this Horn of Africa nation riven by clan rivalries and threatened by Islamic extremists, al-Shabab, opposed to Western-style democracy.

Somalia's president is not elected by popular vote. Some 14,000 delegates selected by their clans elect parliament members, who elect the president.

Officials have said voting for members of the upper house is almost complete, while that for the lower house is just past the halfway mark.

Somalia has been trying to rebuild after recently establishing its first functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and plunged the impoverished nation into chaos.

The election delays have worried some in the international community, which has expressed interest in having the votes carried out this year.

But some clans and candidates have continued to file complaints over the process. Allegations of corruption and manipulation abound, leading to warnings by the electoral commission that some elected seats may be nullified because of allegations that candidates paid bribes to sway voters.

Opposition leaders have insisted that the ongoing process to elect lawmakers is marred by fraud in favor of the current administration's hand-picked members.