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Puntland leaders oppose new federal system, challenging President Hassan Sheikh

Officials in Puntland pulled out of constitutional talks and will boycott referendum

The semi-autonomous state of Puntland is again testing the authority of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Mogadishu by pulling out of the country's federal system in protest at the constitutional reforms approved by lawmakers on 30 March.

Members of the Federal Assembly passed a series of reforms proposed by the Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission, which give the the president the authority to appoint and dismiss the prime minister.

The new constitution, which was driven by Hassan Sheikh, also introduces a five-year term for government bodies, refers to regional state leaders as presidents, and promotes a multi-party system, as well as a new one-person, one-vote election system, and the introduction of direct presidential elections. 

The first test of the new system will be at local elections in June. Puntland officials said that the state would govern itself independently until constitutional amendments passed by the central government are approved in a nationwide referendum.

Puntland's government didn't join the reform negotiations and President Said Abdullahi Deni did not sign the final agreement. He argued that it concentrates power in the hands of the presidency.

This latest pushback against Hassan Sheikh follows Somaliland's agreeing with Ethiopia in January to lease 20km of its coastline in exchange for possible recognition of Somaliland's statehood, triggering a furious response from Mogadishu (Dispatches 28/2/24, Hassan Sheikh ups the ante in Ethiopia port dispute).

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