At approximately 0150 EST, Somali media reported that Puntland Security Forces surrounded and forcibly seized the regional state parliament in Garowe, Somalia.
Members of the Puntland Parliament are accusing President Deni of attempting to forcibly hijack procedures and interfere with the looming elections. The Speaker of the Puntland Parliament, Abdirashid Yusuf Jabril and members of parliament are insisting on a one-year extension of a recent move to empower the Parliament with committee powers to regulate MP membership, a decision which was rejected by the Puntland Constitutional Court as violating the constitution.
President Deni wanted the Dispute Committee, as it is named by Somali media, to begin work immediately. However, with elections scheduled to be held on January 8th, 2024, the MPs are resisting due to an already fraught political environment surrounding the elections.
Puntland elections are dominated by clan elders who select the MPs who then select the President. Earlier this summer, President Deni attempted to change the election rules to a popular democracy in which “one man gets one vote”. This resulted in violent clashes in the regional capital as clans from the North resisted what they perceived as a power move by the relatively popular president. There has been a delicate ceasefire in place since June 2023.
As of 0715 EST, the Dispute Committee has returned to the parliament and has reportedly began working, despite the request for a year extension.
Update: #Puntland's Parliamentary disputes resolution committee begins working inside the Parliamentary building which was earlier this morning seized by PMF and military personnel.
This comes as the House leadership decry interference from President Said Abdullahi Deni. pic.twitter.com/nlxAPZyCUf
— Radio Dalsan (@RadioDalsan1) December 17, 2023
Most of the troops involved in the earlier action have since departed the Parliament building.
Puntland is a Federal Member State in northeastern Somalia. The capital city is the city of Garoowe in the Nugal region, and its leaders declared the territory an autonomous state in 1998.