Somalia: Pressure piles on Puntland president to cancel controversial local polls
GAROWE, Somalia - With few days to the scheduled May 25th local election, heavyweight politicians in Puntland want outgoing President Said Abdullahi Deni to halt the exercise and involve stakeholders in "deep consultations" to avoid plunging the state into "unnecessary and irreversible damage".
Deni, whose term is due in the next eight months, is relentlessly pushing for elections despite stiff opposition from his critics, who accuse him of a plot to extend his term illegally. But his move is now becoming futile with mounting pressure from several quarters including members of the international community.
On Thursday, politicians from the Mudug region led by former Foreign Affairs Minister Mohamed Abdirizak demanded that the impending elections are "paused" to allow the leadership reaches an agreement on changes in the regional constitution, with elections of local leadership being the prime target.
A communique signed by the leaders who have either served the federal government of Somalia or the local leadership of Puntland expressed regret for the clashes in Garowe and urged armed forces for peace and civilian protection. Clashes in Garowe earlier this week left three soldiers dead.
Puntland security forces, they said, should respect laws and "steer clear" of politics. Security forces have been accused of meddling in the political expeditions within the state, with some accused of being partisan by targeting opposition teams that have vowed to boycott the exercise.
The team wants a consensus to be reached to solve the impasse which risks curtailing Puntland's democratization process which is now under threat from "those who should be protecting the constitution". Deni is yet to give a node for the mediation process despite calls from the international community.
Deni is accused of plotting a term extension against the will of the people, a move which is facing opposition from members of the international community. The federal government recently criticized Deni's approach with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud terming it "detrimental to the state-building" process.
Already, the state's leadership has started to dispatch ballot boxes for the much anticipated universal suffrage election in various district councils but whose outcome would be contested just like the piloting exercise in Qardho, Ufyen, and Eyl councils, which divided the regional leadership.