Parliament of Somalia’s Puntland to choose state’s leader on Jan. 8

By Abdiqani Hassan

GAROWE, Somalia (Reuters) – The parliament of Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland state will choose the state’s next leader on Jan. 8, after current leader Said Abdullahi Deni dropped proposed changes to the electoral system that triggered deadly clashes earlier this year.

Regional forces and fighters loyal to the opposition fought fierce street battles in Garowe, Puntland’s capital, in June after Deni sought to make changes to the constitution that would have introduced one-man-one-vote elections.

Opposition groups in Puntland, which lies along Somalia’s northeast Indian Ocean coast, accuse Deni – who holds the title of president and wants a second five-year term – of seeking to tip the ballot in his favour.

Deni has not commented publicly on that allegation.

Deni said late on Wednesday that the state’s next leader would be chosen according to the existing system by the state’s 66 lawmakers, who are themselves selected by clan elders.

Puntland’s parliament on Thursday approved Deni’s proposal for a January election and extended its own mandate for a further year.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said Deni’s acceptance of a January election “removes the uncertainty surrounding the elections and paves the way for a peaceful and stable future for Puntland,” Somalia’s state news agency reported.

(Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Alexander Winning)