Somalia to delay elections by 13 months

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) —Somalia’s election body said it intends to delay the parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for November by 13 months, citing the country’s security problems.

Announcing that a new date for the elections in August 2021, Chairwoman of the Electoral Commission Halimo Ismail told lawmakers and journalists on Monday elections were being postponed for more than a year because of “significant technical and security challenges”.

The announcement by the electoral commission was welcomed by many in the international community including the United Nations, the African Union Mission in Somalia, the European Union, the United States and Britain. They issued a joint statement in support of the new election date in which they emphasised the continued need for Somalis to engage in inclusive dialogue to forge the widest possible agreement among Somalia’s political parties over the election.

However, the Forum of National Parties opposition alliance, criticised the delay. They said President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is seeking an unconstitutional term extension by postponing the elections.

Some opposition leaders called for the leaders of the electoral commission to step down. The president’s term expires on February 8, 2021.

Somalia’s government depends on international support in its long-lasting battle against the extremist rebels of al-Shabab, who are allied with al-Qaeda. Al-Shabab controls large parts of southern and central Somalia and often targets the capital with suicide bombings. The violence would make it difficult to hold election rallies and voting, according to diplomats.