Somalia Cabinet backs 2016 House election; delight as women to hold 30% of all seats

One Harvard-educated woman is already seeking to be president as UN chief Ban Ki-moon welcomed 'watershed' inclusive plan.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has praised Somalia’s government for agreeing Thursday to hold elections this year to a new two-chamber parliament in which women will hold nearly a third of seats.

The new federal parliament will hold elections “based on inclusivity and representation,” Ban said in a statement welcoming the decision.

The UN chief “particularly applauds the commitment to representation of women and minority groups, including that women will comprise 30% of the next parliament,” the statement said.

The members of the new parliament will not be chosen by direct vote, and Ban called for a “roadmap towards universal suffrage in Somalia by 2020” as part of Somalia’s transition to democracy.

UN special envoy Michael Keating said Thursday’s decision by the Somali cabinet, which capped nearly six months of intense negotiations, “may be a watershed moment.”

The move marks “the growing political maturity of a federal Somalia,” Keating told the UN Security Council, adding that the new electoral model was devised by Somalis and would be led by them.

The new parliament will consist of a 275-seat lower house and an upper chamber of 54 members.

The lower house will be elected based on a power-sharing formula between clans, said Keating.

The upper chamber provides for “equal representation of the existing, emerging and prospective federal member states and the allocation of additional seats” for breakaway Puntland and Somaliland, he said.

Harvard-educated Fadumo Dayib has said she wants to be Somalia’s first female president so as to challenge a restrictive status quo that holds back women. The mother of four in June told BBC that she had received death threats, but that nothing would stop her.

Somalia is struggling to return to representative rule after beating back Al-Shaabab Islamists from Mogadishu in mid-2011. 

The Shabaab, which is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu, carries out regular attacks in the capital, as well as against African Union troops in the countryside.

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