Somalia’s police have imposed a 33-hour curfew on the city Mogadishu, effectively keeping practically all people at home during Sunday’s presidential election, in which incumbent leader Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed seeks re-election.
At a news conference on Saturday, police spokeswoman Abdifatah Aden announced a full curfew in the city, covering both vehicles and people, from Saturday at 9:00 p.m. to Monday at 6:00 a.m.
During those hours, lawmakers, security staff, and any other authorities involved in the voting are free to roam about.
The indirect election, in which parliamentarians choose a president, will be held in an airfield hangar with blast walls to protect against possible Islamist assaults or intervention by security forces.
Mohamed is facing 37 opponents in the vote, including two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who analysts see as the frontrunners.
Originally they were 39, but between Thursday and Friday two candidates announced they were exiting the race.
Polls are due to commence early Sunday and are expected to proceed late into the night amid a volatile security atmosphere in which police fear Islamist group Al-Shabab could seek to carry out attacks to disrupt the event.
The Al-Shabab insurgency has gripped Somalia for more than a decade, and a promise by Mohamed at his inauguration in 2017 to “finish” the group has gone unfulfilled.
Al Shabab says it wants to topple the Horn of Africa country’s central government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
Somalia’s next leader will inherit a daunting list of challenges, including the worst drought in 40 years, a violent conflict entering its fourth decade, clan feuds, and a power struggle between the government and federal member states.