Incumbent President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed – known as “Farmaajo” for his reputed love of Italian cheese – seems unlikely to win re-election after losing support in last month’s parliamentary vote, analysts said.
That leaves two ex-presidents among front-runners: Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (2009-2012) and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (2012-2017).
The head of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Said Abdulahi Deni, also has a good chance, analysts say.
The 36 candidates only include one woman, former foreign minister Fawzia Yusuf Adam. Some 329 parliamentarians from both houses are eligible to vote.
Ahmed, a former Islamist, took over as president of a Western-backed transitional government in 2009, establishing the national army and helping push al Shabaab out of Mogadishu.
The other former president, Mohamud, was a peace activist and academic.
Despite being cracked by civil war since 1991, Somalia has held relatively peaceful changes of leadership every four years since 2000, though the latest one has been delayed since 2021.