Somalia swears in federal lawmakers who will pick future president

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU Dec 27 (Reuters) – Almost 300 members of
Somalia’s federal parliament were sworn in on Tuesday, although
parliament’s election of a new president to head the government
was postponed.

The ceremony at least gives the chronically unstable Horn of
Africa country a quorate assembly, four weeks after the
conclusion of a month-long election conducted among 14,000
representative citizens.

The lawmakers were supposed to pick a new president on
Wednesday, but the electoral commission said on Tuesday that the
vote had been postponed to an as yet unspecified date.

“As you witnessed, 243 lawmakers and 38 upper house members
have been sworn in,” Abdikarim haji Abdi, the chief secretary of
Somalia’s federal parliament, told reporters at a police
training camp in the capital Mogadishu, where the ceremony took

This left 32 members of the lower house still to be sworn
in, because their elections either had not yet taken place or
were disputed. In addition, 34 new seats in the upper house were
only created by the electoral committee last week for the six
federal states, in order to resolve a disagreement.

Once all the remaining seats are filled, the parliament will
have a total complement of 347 legislators. However, the 281
already sworn-in are enough to be able to elect a president.

Plagued by Islamist militancy, famine and maritime piracy,
Somalia has been at war for more than a quarter of a century,
but diplomats and some citizens hope the current political
process will help bring some stability.

Legislator Khalif Sheikh Abdullahi told Reuters before the
swearing-in ceremony that the oldest MP would temporarily act as
House speaker, in line with the constitution, until a full-time
speaker was elected.

Somalia’s weak U.N.-backed government is dependent on
foreign funds to pay the fledgling armed forces and a contingent
of 22,000 African Union peacekeepers.

The outgoing parliament, elected in 2012, was picked by 135
elders. The government said threats from the al Qaeda-linked
insurgents of al Shabaab made a one-person, one-vote election
this year impossible, but that the choice of 14,000
representative electors did constitute progress towards

(Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by Elias Biryabarema and
Kevin Liffey)

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