Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Puntland Names New MPs to Elect Next President

Agence France-Presse December 31, 2013 11:31am

Somalia's Puntland names new MPs to elect next president


Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region has named a new parliament whose members will next week vote in a new president, amid widespread fears the poll will trigger violence.

The lawmakers -- 65 men and one woman -- were appointed by clan elders, and will choose the next president on January 8.

Poverty-stricken Puntland forms the tip of the Horn of Africa and makes up around a third of Somalia's territory.

It is struggling to rebuild after years of war as well as to stamp out pirate bases along its lawless coast and to battle Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents.

"After checking the names submitted by the council of elders, the Puntland parliament vetting committee has approved the new list of MPs," a statement said Tuesday.

The eight members of the committee are all presidential appointees.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) warned in a report this month that the presidential vote will likely bring "complex territorial and political issues to the fore, exacerbating clan cleavages and providing opportunities for extremists."

Elections were originally due to have been held in July, but they were postponed by the government, which at the time said the risk of violence was too great.

Puntland set up its own government in 1998, but unlike neighbouring Somaliland, it has not declared full independence.

At least 17 candidates are in the running for the top job, but incumbent president Abdurahman Mohamed Farole, in power since 2009, is seen as likely to retain his post.

However, key rivals include Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, a recent former prime minister of united Somalia, who has accused him of corruption.

The new president will lead Puntland for the next four years.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since the collapse of the central government in 1991.

The Shebab have been driven out of Somalia's major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force.

However, the insurgents still control large swathes of southern Somalia as well as pockets of Puntland.

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