Somali elections to hold as President Farmajo drops term extension

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmajo of Somalia resumed talks on Saturday to hold elections as soon as possible, a step applauded by the opposition.

The president called for a diplomatic solution to the current political crisis in a short speech to MPs televised live on television, abandoning the two-year extension of his presidential term adopted on April 12th. 

He also made his Prime Minister responsible for the election’s organization, giving in to one of the opposition’s key demands for a solution to the impasse. 

“We have decided to seek a solution through negotiations and avoid provoking violence for the benefit of those who play with the blood of the people,” said Farmajo.

Tensions have risen after the president’s term expired on 8 February without elections, and the opposition was outraged when a two-year extension of the president’s term was announced on 12 April. 

The opposition was enraged by the extension of the presidential term on April 12, to the point where armed clashes between government forces and pro-opposition forces broke out last Sunday in Mogadishu, killing three people. 

On Saturday, the president formally accepted the terms of an agreement reached on September 17 between the federal government and the country’s five semi-autonomous states, as demanded by his opponents and several partner countries. 

The agreement calls for indirect elections, similar to those held in 2017, in which special delegates selected by several clan leaders elect parliamentarians, who then vote for the president. 

“I appeal to all of you (…) to return to the inclusive agreement” adopted in September, he added.

“I want to make it clear that Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble will be in charge of the preparation, conduct and security of the election,” he added.

The speech was then unanimously adopted by the 140 MPs in attendance. 

In the evening, the Prime Minister addressed the press, hailing the day as “historic” and thanking President Farmajo for his “compromise” spirit. 

“We are determined to hold free, fair and inclusive elections without anyone being disenfranchised,” he said, promising to bring the stakeholders together “very soon”.

The president had already backed down in a speech to the nation on Tuesday night, calling for urgent talks with Somali political actors to organize elections. 

The alliance of presidential candidates running against Farmajo issued a statement applauding Saturday’s legislative developments. 

“I applaud the decision of parliament to return to the implementation of the 17 September agreement. This is a step forward and whoever was involved in this decision should be congratulated for it,” said former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, chairman of the coalition.

In a statement, the Turkish Foreign Ministry, a key partner of the Somali government, praised the MPs’ decision, expressing the hope that it will enable political dialogue to resume “without delay”.

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