Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Thursday, 29 January 2009

Somali rivals to seek MPs' votes

Somali Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein
Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein wants to upgrade to be president

Presidential candidates are preparing to address the expanded Somali parliament a day before it votes to choose a new head of state.

At least 14 candidates are running, including Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein and moderate Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.

An additional 149 opposition members have been sworn in to parliament which is meeting in neighbouring Djibouti.

The Islamist al-Shabab militia says it will not recognise the new government.

Foreign spouses forbidden

All of the nearly 500 Somali MPs are attending the session, where the presidential hopefuls will put forward their agendas.

1.3 million displaced
3.5 million need food aid
- 43% of the population
No central government since 1991

Each candidate will have to present $2,000, a CV and official documents.

The BBC's Daud Aweis says according to the constitution "each candidate must prove he is married to a Somali woman. It is fine to have a foreign passport but not a foreign spouse."

The new Somali president will be chosen by the MPs, who will vote in a secret ballot on 30 January.

The plan is for the new head of state to be sworn in the following day.

He is then due to fly to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa for an African Union summit.

Enormous challenges

Parliament is meant to relocate from Djibouti to the Somali capital Mogadishu within days.

But our correspondent says this is unlikely.

Opposition leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed
Moderate Islamist Sheikh Sharif Ahmed is a presidential candidate

He points out that Mogadishu is facing an insurgency and there are not enough AU peacekeeping troops to protect all the MPs.

It is likely that some will stay in Djibouti and others will relocate to Kenya, he says.

With Islamist al-Shabab militiamen in control of the former seat of parliament Baidoa, and many other parts of central and southern Somalia, the challenges facing the new president will be enormous, our correspondent says.

Somalia has not had a functioning central government since 1991.

The northern regions of Somaliland and Puntland have broken away and govern themselves.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in successive waves of violence.

More than a million people have fled their homes.

And 43% of the population - 3.5 million - need food aid, donors say.

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