Somali PM faces confidence vote in parliament

Somalia’s prime minister will face a new confidence vote in Parliament on Saturday as a power struggle between the leader of the government and President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed comes to a head.

Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke has come under intense pressure to step down in recent months, with Ahmed leading calls for him to go.

Somalia’s Parliament has already voted once to oust Sharmarke and his Western-backed government. But the prime minister rejected the previous vote in May as unconstitutional and refused to resign.

Some Horn of Africa analysts say the beleaguered Ahmed, whose administration has failed to end a three-year insurgency waged by hard-line Islamists, is simply looking to reassert his authority on a brittle government and a disenchanted nation.

“The president wants to find a fall-guy,” said Rashid Abdi, a Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

“This is a pure power struggle which has nothing to do with the future of Somalia. This is basically the shenanigans of a political class that has lost all direction,” Abdi said. The anarchic Horn of Africa nation has lacked an effective central government since the overthrow of a dictator in 1991. Since then warlords and now Islamist rebels have run amok.

In the last two years, militants have killed five ministers and dozens of African peacekeeping troops while hemming the government into just a few pockets of the capital.

Residents and an ambulance service worker said heavy shelling in the city killed at least 12 people and wounded dozens more on Thursday.

‘No chance’
The fighting erupted as 296 out of 300 lawmakers present in Parliament voted in favour of holding the vote of confidence, the deputy speaker of Parliament, Abdiweli Ibrahim Mudey, said.

Under Somalia’s Constitution, Sharmarke’s opponents will require a simple majority to oust the prime minister, a likely outcome given Thursday’s vote.

Officially there are 550 MPs in the Somali Parliament although there are only about 350 in Mogadishu at the moment. Three hundred must be present for the session to be valid.

“The prime minister has no chance of maintaining his seat. The majority of the legislators will surely vote against him,” lawmaker Abdullahi Sheikh Ismail told Reuters. “The other option is that he may resign.”

On Thursday, the new UN envoy to Somalia told the Security Council the world urgently needed to boost military support for Somalia’s government and a 7 200-strong African Union peacekeeping force.

But Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, Mark Lyall Grant, said greater UN involvement would be fruitless unless Somalia’s interim government resolved its “deeply damaging” internal differences.

ICG’s Abdi said Ahmed would gain little from Sharmarke’s departure if the prime minister failed to defeat the motion.

“It is unlikely it would lead to any stability within the TFG [Transitional Federal Government],” Abdi said. — Reuters

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