MOGADISHU (AFP) – Somalia on Friday extended its deadline to finish voting for the Lower house of Parliament, the latest in a series of election delays that risk starving the country of budget funds.
The fragile Horn of Africa nation has struggled to hold elections, with polls delayed by more than a year, bedevilled by political squabbling and a simmering extremist insurgency.
The Lower House elections were due to be completed on Friday and pave the way for lawmakers to pick a president.
But Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf said the deadline had now been revised to March 15.
“The National Consultative Council… expressed their disappointment with the fact that they could not meet the deadline,” the minister said in a televised address.
United States (US) Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said the delay was driving “political instability” in the country and announced an extension of visa restrictions on officials and others “responsible for, or complicit in” undermining Somalia’s electoral process.
The US, which first imposed the restrictions on February 8, last month also threatened to levy sanctions if the country missed Friday’s deadline.
Somalia’s announcement comes just days after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned it might have to stop its programme in the country if the polls were postponed again.
The IMF programme is due for a review in mid-May, but election delays mean a new administration may not be ready to endorse planned reforms in time, forcing it to an automatic halt, the fund’s Somalia mission chief Laura Jaramillo Mayor told AFP.
Elections were originally scheduled for a year ago but were delayed when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (AP pic left), better known by his nickname Farmajo, tried to extend his term.
Farmajo’s four-year mandate expired in February last year but was controversially extended by Parliament in April, triggering deadly gun battles on the streets of Mogadishu.
Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble then brokered a new election timetable, but in the months that followed, a bitter rivalry between him and Farmajo derailed the process again.
The international community voiced fears that election delays, as well as the feud between Farmajo and Roble, could set off new troubles for a country that has lacked stable governance for three decades.
Somalia’s elections follow a complex indirect model.
Nearly 30,000 clan delegates are assigned to choose 275 MPs for the Lower House while state legislatures elect senators for the Upper House, a process that has now been completed.
Once the Lower House election is concluded, both assemblies vote for the next president.
So far, some 175 members of the Lower House have been elected.