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Somali lawmakers withdraw confidence vote against PM

Source: Reuters - Wed, 22 May 2013 13:03 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU, May 22 (Reuters) - Somali members of parliament shelved a vote of confidence against the prime minister on Wednesday, but warned the government it would face further parliamentary rebellions if it did not do more to improve the economy and security.

Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon has led a cabinet, in place since the election of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud last year, that has been lauded for bringing Somalia back into the international fold after two decades of conflict and civil war.

But many want faster changes on the ground.

The vote against Saaid, which analysts had said was unlikely to succeed, was still seen as a threat to political stability in the Horn of Africa state that Western powers say has been a launchpad for militant Islam.

Mohamed Osman Jawari, speaker of the 275-seat chamber, said 93 legislators filed the motion but 53 withdrew their support on Tuesday and another 13 pulled out on Wednesday. "So the prime minister has confidence to work," he said.

Rebel lawmakers said they might resurrect the motion.

"We were not against the prime minister in person but (were against) his work," legislator Dahir Amin told Reuters. "If he does not improve as soon as possible he will of course face a tougher motion."

As the motion was withdrawn rather than defeated, lawmakers can raise it again at any time. Had the motion been quashed in the chamber, there would have had to be a six-month gap.

"This is not a huge victory for the prime minister," said Abdi Aynte, director of the Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies think-tank.

"The MPs who were behind this vote have flexed their muscles and sent a very strong signal that their daggers are still pointed at the cabinet and that they can hold the government accountable," Aynte added.

Saaid's office could not be reached for comment.

Delays in paying armed forces battling Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda had been one of the main reasons for the no-confidence motion.

Amin said the president had urged members of parliament to withdraw the motion. "We respect the president ... but a motion brought against the prime minister by 93 legislators is not a light matter," he said.

Tensions have also escalated between Mogadishu and outlying regions over how much central power should be devolved to the provinces. Analysts see that as a struggle over resources.

Saaid had been criticised about the way he handled relations with southern Jubaland and its strategic port of Kismayu, where there have been rival claims to the regional presidency. (Additional reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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