Somalia's president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, has signed legislation that will allow ordinary Somalis to vote in parliamentary elections for the first time.
The president signed the bill into law Friday, two weeks after the upper house of parliament approved the bill. The lower house passed it in December.
Previously, elections took place under the 4.5 system, in which elders from four major clans and smaller ones chose delegates to vote for leaders.
Under the new system, Somalis will vote directly for parties, with parliamentary seats being allocated according to the final tallies. Members of parliament will then elect the president and prime minister. The prime minister must come from the majority party in parliament.
Somalia faces major logistical hurdles that must be cleared before elections can become reality. Parts of the country are controlled by Islamist militant group al-Shabab, and relations between the federal government and local administrations are often tense.
The president was nevertheless optimistic at the signing ceremony, which was attended by Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Guleid and the speakers of both houses of parliament.
"This night marks a historic night for our nation, because after nearly 50 years, our republic and our beloved citizens will have the chance to execute their democratic rights for one man, one vote in the forthcoming 2021 elections,” he said at the presidential residence, Villa Somalia.
“No one has a special status and it will be the time for everyone to seek a mandate from the people based on their performance," he added.
Speech targets young people
The president, widely known as Farmajo, urged young people to embrace a democratic system in a statement issued by his office.
“To our citizens, the people of Somalia, especially our youth who make a large percentage of our population, the power to vote for your candidate of choice is in your hands," he said. "Let’s keep away from tribalism and divisive politics. We are on a democratic path to move our nation away from selfish interests, bloodshed and loss of property.”