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Somalia readies to select new president

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Somalia has taken a step toward electing a new president after a committee overseeing the war-torn country's transition to a replacement government named more than 200 parliamentarians, a committee member said.

"We have 202 members readied now and we are working on the reviewing of 40 others that were passed today and we hope the first parliament session will be held around [Monday]," Halimo Yarey, who co-chairs the committee, said on Saturday.

"The rest of the list is still pending because of inter-clan argument and other reasons related to a lack of fulfillment of the conditions," she told reporters.

The legislature is due to elect the next president on Monday under a UN-backed agreement, putting an end to eight years of Somalia's graft-riddled, Western-backed Transitional Federal Government.

The Horn of Africa nation has lacked a stable central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Siad Barre in 1991, which unleashed a bloody civil war and two decades of chaos.

While the government until recently controlled only a few blocks of Mogadishu, African Union and other troops have since made key territorial gains in their fight against al-Shabab fighters.

With better security, members of the Somali diaspora have returned to invest in their battered homeland, and many now hope that a new government will help the war-torn country stabilise and recover.

Selection committee

In that process, a "technical selection committee" - charged with ratifying new MPs from a list chosen by a group of 135 traditional elders -  published the names of the first of 275 new legislators late on Friday.

The committee rejected some 70 nominees because they did not meet the requirements to serve in parliament.

Legislators must be Somali citizens of sound mind, have a high school diploma and be free of ties to warlords or links to
atrocities committed during the country's civil war.

The transition process is also laden with inter-clan tensions. Under the agreement, each of Somalia's four main clan families - the Darod, Dir, Hawiye and Rahanweyn - named 30 members to the group of elders nominating the members of parliament.

The remaining 15 were drawn from a coalition of minority groups.

Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the country’s current president, said in an interview in Mogadishu that the technical selection committee should not overstep their mandate.

"The technical selection committee was given certain criteria to vet names presented to them. They don't have a right arbitrarily, to choose those on the list and who to reject," he said on Saturday.

"If there's a problem, members of the technical committee should go back to the council of elders, but it is unacceptable for them to overstep their mandate."

Alexander Rondos, the European Union's special representative to the Horn of Africa, was in Mogadishu on Sunday for an urgent meeting.

"We are in Mogadishu to show support because, finally, this is where the future of Somalia is being decided by Somalis," he said, in statements on behalf of Somalia’s international community partners, including the African Union, the United Nations, the European Union and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development.

"The international community welcomes the important progress that Somalia's leaders and people have made in getting to this stage," he said.

The new parliament - comprising a 275-member lower house and a  yet-to-be-launched upper house with a maximum of 54 members - is tasked with  electing the president, the speaker and two deputy speakers.

It will be allowed to go ahead with voting Monday if a quorum of more than two-thirds of the lower house - 184 members - is present.

The new president will then appoint a prime minister, who in turn will form a council of ministers.

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