President suspends PM in election row

Somalia’s president has suspended the powers of the prime minister for a second time this year. The two clashed over which of them was standing in the way of a highly sensitive parliamentary election.

The executive powers of Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble were suspended on Sunday, the office of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has announced, citing allegations of corruption against the head of the government.

The PM’s office didn’t immediately react, but the information minister said security forces loyal to the president were moving to keep Roble out of office and branded the action an “indirect coup.”

The statement was released a day after the two senior officials publicly accused each other of stalling the ongoing parliamentary election. Somalia has an indirect system for selecting MPs, with local councils and clan elders picking lawmakers for both chambers of the Parliament.

The ongoing election started in November after long delays and was supposed to end last week on Friday, but by the deadline only 24 of 275 seats in the lower chamber had been filled. The ballot paves the way for the election of a new president by newly elected parliament members.

The president, who is known in Somalia as Farmaajo, said on Sunday that Prime Minister Roble posed “a serious threat to the electoral process,” to which the accused official said that it was the president who was “derailing the electoral process.”

The vote of no-confidence that ousted the previous PM was over his failure to organize an election under a new one-person-one-vote system, which was scheduled to happen before February 2021.

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Somalia has only held one indirect presidential election in its modern history, with lawmakers picking Farmaajo in a process criticized by some observers as the most corrupt political event in the country’s history.

The two men clashed in April, after the lower chamber of Parliament voted to extend the president’s then-expired four-year term by two more years. The decision was rejected by the upper chamber and led to clashes in the capital Mogadishu, raising the specter of the civil war that engulfed Somalia in 1991 after the collapse of a dictatorship government.

The conflict was finally resolved in May, after the president tasked the prime minister with organizing a ballot under the current indirect system. Both sides declared their commitment to holding the election.

The confrontation erupted again in September over the appointment of the head of the key security agency. Farmaajo at the time even announced the suspension of Roble’s hiring and firing powers. The candidates preferred by the two sides eventually were both offered senior offices.

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