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Somalia has decided to delay its presidential election for a fourth time amid allegations of fraud and intimidation, an electoral official said Monday.

The vote had been set for Wednesday, but the official said it likely will be Jan. 24 instead, though leaders were discussing the specific timing. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

This Horn of Africa nation is riven by clan rivalries and threatened by al-Shabab Islamic extremists opposed to Western-style democracy.

Somalia on Wednesday is expected to swear in parliament members, who are elected by some 14,000 delegates selected by their clans. Parliament members elect the country’s president, who is not chosen directly by popular vote. The electoral official said the new parliament was likely to elect a speaker on Jan. 4.

Opposition leaders have expressed concern over the months-long delay, saying the process is marred by fraud in favor of the current administration’s hand-picked members.

Somali officials were not immediately available for comment.

“We are deeply concerned about the delay of the elections for the fourth time,” said Jabril Abdulle, a presidential candidate. “Failure to hold elections in a timely manner will certainly generate new instability that radical groups may take advantage of.” He also said the electoral process lacks oversight.

Somalia has been trying to rebuild after recently establishing its first functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew a longtime dictator and plunged the impoverished nation into chaos.

The election delays have worried some in the international community, which had expressed interest in having the votes carried out this year.

©Alleastafrica and Associated Press

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