(Bloomberg) --

Somalia is bracing to hold a much-delayed presidential vote amid a curfew in the capital Mogadishu and a dizzying 38 candidates all attempting to unseat the incumbent president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

The vote is scheduled to take place around noon local time amid heightened insecurity as the militant group al-Shabaab continues to claim lives in deadly attacks across the Horn of Africa nation.

Among the front-runners are the current president, popularly known as Farmajo. The others include two former presidents, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, former prime minister Hassan Ali Khaire, Somali oil-rich regional leader Said Abdullahi Deni and the only female contender, former deputy prime minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam.

“If the lawmakers elect me as their president, Somalia will rise from the ashes,” Fawzia Yusuf Adam told Bloomberg. “Corruption and tribalism will be abolished, and the mediocrity that has been common throughout the years will be replaced by meritocracy.”

In the run-up to the vote – which is carried out by hundreds of lawmakers chosen by clan representatives – tensions between the president and Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble increased with both men attempting to curb each other’s powers. The top four candidates to emerge from a first round of voting will progress to a second round run-off later in the day.

Farmajo has retained support from countries he has closely allied to during his administration - namely Ethiopia, Qatar and Turkey, said Omar Mahmood, an analyst with the International Crisis Group. 

The vote is taking place inside Somalia’s heavily guarded airport. The capital’s streets were almost empty on Sunday. The vote is being closely watched by its Kenyan neighbors, with whom tensions have escalated over a dispute over the ownership of an area off their shared Indian Ocean coastline said to be rich in oil, gas and fish.

Many in Somalia remain wary that al-Shabaab continues to control large swathes of the country by imposing heavy taxes on much of the population. The impoverished nation is also struggling with one of the worst droughts in decades and rising inflation.

Earlier this month, an attack on peacekeeping forces in Somalia by al-Shabaab claimed the lives of dozens of Burundian soldiers.

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