By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Hundreds of Somali lawmakers were sworn into office on Thursday, paving the way for them to pick the country’s new leader, a process that has been delayed for months amid a power struggle between the current president and the prime minister.
Elections had been scheduled for a year ago but were delayed when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed tried to extend his four-year term by two years, a move thwarted by parliament.
On Thursday 250 of the 275 parliamentarians took their oaths of office alongside 40 of the 54 senators at the heavily fortified African Union military base in the capital Mogadishu.
The process of choosing lawmakers, who are picked by clan elders rather than direct election, was riven with threats and bloodshed, including the killing of a young female candidate, Amina Mohamed, who was a vocal critic of the government.
A date for selecting a new president is yet to be set, but a new government must be in place by May 17 if the Horn of Africa country is to continue receiving budget support from the International Monetary Fund, the lender said in February.
Somalia is in the grip of a brutal insurgency lead by al Shabaab, an Islamist group linked to al Qaeda, and tens of thousands face famine after years of failed rains and soaring food prices caused in part by the Russia-Ukraine war.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by James Macharia Chege and David Holmes)