Security Council regrets election delay in Somalia

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council expressed regret Friday at the delay in presidential and parliamentary elections in Somalia and called on all parties to implement the new calendar without delay.

The council stressed in a presidential statement approved by all 15 members and read at an open meeting that Somalia should adhere to a political roadmap to reach one-vote, one-person elections by 2020.

Elections had been scheduled in August, before the term of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud runs out, but were delayed because additional preparation is needed.

Somalia's electoral commission chief, Omar Mohamed Abdulle, announced on Aug. 7 that parliamentary elections will now take place between Sept. 24 and Oct. 10, with a new speaker chosen on Oct. 25.

The election of a new president will take place afterward, on Oct. 30, Abdulle said.

The Security Council underscored "the need to maintain the momentum towards democratic governance, with an inclusive, transparent and credible electoral process in 2016 as a stepping stone to universal suffrage elections in 2020."

President Mohamud has said the new electoral process for the Horn of Africa nation will be far more democratic with an electoral college of nearly 14,000 people electing members of parliament — compared to just 135 elders who selected the current members in 2012.

The council called the upcoming vote "an historic opportunity to deliver more representative governance to the people of Somalia and to reflect Somalia's diversity," noting the government's commitment to reserve 30 percent of seats in the upper and lower houses of Parliament for women and for minority representation.

The Security Council had been pressing for the elections to be held on schedule in August.

"We're disappointed that the elections have been delayed by a couple of months," Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told reporters. "It's really important that the new schedule which is elections by the end of October is maintained without any further delays and that that is then a stepping stone towards the full one-person, one-vote elections in 2020."

Somalia has been trying to rebuild after establishing its first functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and turned on each other, plunging the impoverished nation into chaos.

Al-Shabab rebels were ousted from Mogadishu in 2011 and have been pushed out of other key cities but they are not yet defeated, and the government remains weak. In recent months, Al-Shabab, which maintains a military presence largely in rural areas, has stepped up attacks on military bases across large parts of south and central Somalia.

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