Somalia's parliament has elected a new speaker, taking a major step in a U.N.-backed plan to create a stronger and more permanent government.
Mohamed Osman Jawari won the speaker's post in a vote by legislators in Mogadishu Tuesday. Jawari held a significant lead after the first round of voting, and was named speaker after his opponent in a planned run-off dropped out.
The 66-year-old Jawari served as transportation minister and minister of labor and sports under former President Mohamed Siad Barre. He also headed a committee that held public discussions on a draft constitution that was provisionally adopted last month.
Parliament's next task is to elect Somalia's new president. More than 60 people have declared themselves candidates, including the incumbent, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The new parliament met for the first time on August 20, ending an eight-year transitional government that was plagued by infighting and ineffectiveness.
The United Nations and international partners have said Somalia now has an unprecedented opportunity to end more than two decades of chaos.
The Horn of Africa nation has endured instability and unrest since 1991, when warlords overthrew the last stable government.