Ousting of Somali Speaker Opens Up New Political Battle

Somali politics for the last six years has been characterized by political wrangling between the president, the prime minister and the speaker of the parliament. On Tuesday, Somali legislators opposed to Speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan cast a vote of no-confidence to oust him, accusing him of abusing power. The development opens up a new political power struggle in the transitional government as it fights to assert its authority in the battle-torn country. Mohammed Yusuf has more for VOA from Nairobi.

On Tuesday, 280 members of parliament voted to remove Speaker Sharif Hassan. A day later a scuffle erupted in parliament as Sharif Hassan’s opponents attempted to elect a new speaker.

In an interview with VOA’s Somali service, Sharif Hassan questioned the legitimacy of the vote because he was out of the country, in Italy. He also said he is heading back to Mogadishu to deal with the crisis.

Roger Middleton is an analyst in London for Chatham House, a foreign policy institute. He says serious disputes are going to arise now that the speaker has returned to Mogadishu.

“The real worry for people with the constitution process and road map and so on going on at the moment is the parliament gets bogged down in dispute who should be the speaker, who has the right to remove the speaker, if anybody has the right to remove the speaker. Then the constitutional effort and the efforts to broaden the engagement with Somali political process — those will get side tracked by this move. So it certainly changes the way politics operates in the last few months.”

Middleton says the move taken by lawmakers is an attempt to play a bigger role in decision-making in the country. The parliament has been criticized by many for being inactive and ineffective.

Awad Asharah, a Somali member of parliament, says Sharif Hassan took too much power for himself and obstructed parliament from performing its duties.

“He also tarnished our image because people say we are corrupt, we take money and only Sharif (the speaker) can do what he wants in the parliament. So we have to straighten the situation.”

Some politicians question the legality of the move to oust Sharif Hassan, because he was out of the country, in Italy, when the vote took place. Former lawmaker Hussein Gedi says the law should be respected.

“I cannot say whether they were right but what it could have been better to find solution and talk. It seems to me, that this matter needs to be revised and resolved constitutionally.”

Middleton of Chatham House says the parliamentary crisis is going to hurt efforts to stabilize the country.

“I think he is going to complicate negotiations over the end of the transition, which is meant to happen in August next year. He is going to complicate negotiations over a new constitution and a new government so there are some big challenges thrown up by this in Somali politics.”

The political infighting has already claimed its first casualty, as the United Nations was forced to postpone a meeting, scheduled for Thursday, on ending the transitional government and drafting a new constitution.

For now, Somalia’s political wrangling continues.

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