Somalia’s presidential election scheduled for August 20 is likely to be a two-horse race and a match between two foes – President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Speaker of Parliament Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden.
Many observers believe the two have in the last two months used the power of incumbency, influence over Somali clans, personal slash funds and powerful links with some regional and international powers, to outflank the over 40 candidates vying for the top job.
A two chamber parliament made up of 275 deputies from the Lower House and 54 deputies in the Upper House from the 18 administrative regions (Upper House) will elect a new president for Somalia, but this date could change if the Idd ul-Fitr falls on that date.
Speaker Sharif Hassan has not yet announced his candidature, but a credible source in Mogadishu told the Nation, that the Speaker had confirmed to him that he would contest.
The Speaker’s reticence, he believes, could be tactical, even though the silence has recently fed speculation he may instead back a candidate to stand against President Sharif.
President Sharif’s chances of re-election appear good, despite all the claims that he has been diminished by allegations of graft and ineptitude.
The polls are not direct elections, more important than public perceptions are the foreign links, and President Sharif has more international friends than Mr Hassan.
He has excellent relations with Uganda and Amisom, the real power on the ground.
Ugandans favour leadership continuity and argue that a change at the top could disrupt military gains so far made.
His relations with Kenya are not so good since he objected to aspects of the Jubba plan and the deployment of Kenyan-trained Somali forces.
His links with the US and much of the West are believed to be good, despite reservations about his leadership abilities. Many would not mind his return, say sources.
“I think Sharif Hassan prefers to be a kingmaker,” said Mr Abdirashid Hashi, an analyst with the International Crisis Group and a former top aide of President Sharif.
Mr Hassan comes from the Digil-Mirifle clan, which has traditionally held the post of Speaker. This makes it difficult for him to run as president, a post reserved for either the Darod or Hawiye clans.
Diplomats believe the politician is behind a move to change the ‘quota’ system that divides the three top leadership posts along rigid clans. They say Mr Hassan wants a Speaker elected from the Hawiye clan and this will open the way for him to bid for the presidency.
Because the election of the speaker precedes that of the president, the politician may actually have his way, diplomatic sources say.