Somalia sets presidential election for Feb. 8

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Somalia will hold its presidential election on February 8, its electoral commission said Wednesday, after months of delays in a tortuous process for the conflict-torn country.

Candidates will have until January 29 to register, the commission said in a statement.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, a 61-year-old former academic and activist from the Hawiye clan, is seeking re-election.

The vote will come six months after it was originally set for August, following delays in the election of lawmakers because of clan disputes, fraud accusations and organisational challenges.

Despite significant flaws in the election — riddled with claims of vote buying and corruption — it is still widely considered the most democratic voting process to take place in nearly five decades.

The original promise of a one-person, one-vote national poll had to be abandoned because of insecurity, political infighting and a lack of basic requirements such as an electoral roll.

An electoral college system was instituted instead, whereby 135 clan elders chose 14,025 delegates who then voted for each of the 275 seats in the lower house of parliament, distributed according to clan.

Upper house seats were distributed by region, and were increased from 54 to 72 after complaints of insufficient representation by some clans.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of President Siad Barre’s military regime, which ushered in more than two decades of lawlessness and conflict in a country deeply divided along clan lines.

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