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Somalia: Puntland refuses to recognise federal government after disputed constitutional changes

Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud speaks during an interview on his visit to the United Nations, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, at U.N. headquarters.   -  
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The semi-autonomous state of Puntland says it has withdrawn from the country's federal system and will govern itself independently until constitutional amendments passed by the central government in Somalia are approved in a nationwide referendum.

On Saturday, the federal parliament in Mogadishu approved several constitutional changes that the government said are necessary to establish a stable political system. But Puntland has rejected the latest constitutional reforms approved by the Somali Parliament.

"Puntland will act independently until there is a federal government with a constitution that is agreed upon by a referendum in which Puntland takes part," said the state's council of ministers in a statement. 

But some critics have said the changes, which include introducing direct presidential elections and allowing the president to appoint a prime minister without parliamentary approval, concentrate power in the hands of the executive.

One of the main changes brought by this amendment is the introduction of universal suffrage, ending the clan-based indirect voting system that has been in place in Somalia for decades.

Puntland is a region in northeast Somalia that declared itself as an autonomous state in August 1998 and has been seeking to be part of a federal Somalia. 

The latest development is seen as a tough nut for President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who is struggling to end an al Qaeda-linked insurgency, and assert federal authority over the breakaway region of Somaliland.

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