Somalia’s presidential elections have been marred by allegations of bribery, with up to $50,000 said to have changed hands among members of parliament, Al Jazeera has learnt.
Senior diplomatic sources deployed in the region to ensure honest and fair election, have confirmed that the process of vote buying has been under way over the last few days.
It was hoped that the vote for a new president, the first of its kind in decades, would alter the political landscape of the nation and be a milestone in the war-ravaged country’s quest to end two decades of violence, corruption and infighting.
However, the bribery allegations confirm fears of the election being rigged.
Earlier, international diplomatic sources told Al Jazeera that “if MPs don’t vote with their conscience, this will continue the orgy of corruption”.
The incumbent president, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, is up against 25 candidates including prominent Somalis who have returned from overseas.
Among his strongest rivals is prime minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, and the main opposition figure, Hassan Sheikh.
If no one candidate secures a two-thirds majority in the first round of voting and a simple majority in the second, the election would go to a third round.
Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from Mogadishu, said: “I have spoken to a senior diplomatic source as well as various MPs and people connected to the technical selection committee as well.
“They have told me that there is bribery going on all sides. Many of the main candidates who are taking part in this election have been offering money to MPs, and some of those MPs have accepted that money.
“We are talking about large amounts of money, ranging from what I have been told $10,000 to $50,000. Some MPs are even being asked to swear on the Quran to vote for a certain candidate.
“One senior politician told me that he believes a quarter of parliament will vote honestly and fairly but unfortunately the rest will not.”
Some presidential contenders and Somalis had criticised the election process suggesting that it would merely bring in a new government that would look much like previous ones.
A diplomatic source in Mogadishu said millions of dollars were being used by all main candidates to bribe lawmakers to influence their vote.
“Seven million dollars is estimated to have come from Gulf sources and the money is intended to ensure that President Sharif is re-elected,” said the source, who declined to be named, due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The source said the money was coming from Somali business interests in Gulf Arab countries, some of whom have connections to warlords and want to maintain the status quo.
The office have denied any suggestion of wrongdoing and called the allegations “baseless and not true” adding that ”President Sheikh Sharif’s campaign has run out of money”.
Afyane Emli, professor of international affairs at Qatar University, told Al Jazeera the election was based on an arbitrary procedure where traditional elders and clan members selected the parliamentarians.
“Somali people do not elect the MPs that are electing the so called president. So technically we have an arbitrary and corrupt process that has produced the MPs now and there are so many things that are far from transparency and openness”, he said.
“The three incumbents that are in power have manipulated the process to their advantage. The front runners, the president, the prime minister and the former speaker of the parliament have had significant impact on how the process develops for quite some time”.
There has been no effective central government control over most of the country since the outbreak of civil war in 1991 and Monday’s vote is seen as a culmination of a regionally brokered and UN-backed roadmap to end that conflict, during which tens of thousands were killed and many more fled.
The vote is the first to take place in Somalia in decades and has been made possible by African Union, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops who have pushed al-Qaeda-linked fighters out of more and more areas.