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MOGADISHU, Somalia's South West state will delay a key presidential vote for the third time because it is not sufficiently prepared, the semi-autonomous region's election committee said.

Tensions between the federal government and state authorities have mounted in recent weeks after Mogadishu tried to block the candidacy of former al Shabaab militant Mukhtar Robow.

After the committee evaluated the many activities awaiting, available time and the incomplete tasks to be completed within a short time frame..., (it) decided the election date will be 19 December, a committee statement said.

The original date for the election was Nov 17 before its initial postponement to Nov 28 and then to Dec 5.

South West is slated to be the first of Somalia's seven semi-autonomous regions to hold presidential elections in the coming months, a critical juncture in a growing power struggle between the central government in Mogadishu and the states.

Southwest regional lawmakers will head to the ballots on Dec 19 to pick a new president, in what will be the second election since the inception of the southern Federal Member State in mid-2014.

In a statement, three candidates, including former Al-Shabaab deputy leader and spokesman, Mukhtar Robow raised question over the credibility and independence of the Election Commission after delaying the ballot for the 3rd time.

The Candidates Alliance led by Robow called for the urgent formation of Anti-corruption body for proper supervision and to ensure that the much-postponed presidential election is carried out in a transparent and credible way.

Furthermore, they said the new date set by the election commission for the vote could make it impossible for the International Community to send observers to monitor the polls because of the "Christmas Day" festive.

Attention in recent weeks has turned to Baidoa, the interim capital of Southwest state, as high-level al-Shabaab defector Mukhtar Robow is seeking the regional presidency competing against two government-backed candidates.

Somalia's Ministry of Security said earlier last month, saying Robow was not eligible to run for public office since he is still under U.S. sanctions imposed against him in 2008 when he was specially designated as global terrorist.

Robow who is seen as the top of the candidates in the presidential race turned a blind eye to the increasing pressure against him by the government and continued his campaign smoothly in Baidoa after gaining a broad public support.

Similar votes will take place in the Federal Member States of Puntland and Jubaland in early and late 2019 respectively.