The presidential election for Somalia’s Southwest State has been postponed for the third time, officials said Thursday amid fears of possible disqualifications of certain candidates running for the region’s top seat.
The development casts doubt on the region’s hopes for holding the election marred by allegations of manipulations amid new speculations regarding possible disqualifications of certain candidates, raising fears of violence and protests in the region which has seen years of a relative stability following the ouster of al-Shabab from large parts of south and central Somalia.
Announcing the election delay, the region’s electoral commission said in a statement issued on early Thursday that the election which was expected to take place by Nov. 28 has been delayed to Dec. 5.
Despite the widespread speculations regarding plan by the electoral commission to exclude certain candidates from the election race, no specific names have since surfaced as to who it would affect, if it turns out to be true.
Officials at the regional election commission were not immediately available for comment.
However, local officials continue to cast doubts over the possibility of holding the election which was initially scheduled to take place on Nov. 17. But the plan hit snag following the sudden mass resignations of the region’s electoral commissioners including their chairman.
The ongoing election plans have also encountered more challenges again after the resignation of the long-serving powerful president of the Southwest State and candidate Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden who had also pulled out of his presidential race, prompting officials to delay polls once more later.
The resignation of Mr. Aden who had been in power since 2014 came amid pressing challenges by allied rival candidates who are reportedly vying in alliance to unseat him in addition to a political pressure by the central with which he engaged in a tough political challenge along with other regional states.
Meanwhile, his sudden departure had also brought a sigh of relief for the central government which considered him as a major political threat owing to his political influence within the regional states’ bloc which is locked in a strong political showdown with the government.
According to analysts, his departure had dealt a blow to the opposition regional states and will also make it easier for the government to install its favorite leader in the region in the much-awaiting upcoming election.
Aden, a former Somali parliament speaker had been involved in the Southwestern politics since it was re-established as a Federal Member State of Somalia in 2009.
Critics accused of him of having ruled with iron fist and bribery, prompting demands for a new era of change with the need for a more accountable and transparent leader.