By the end of Sunday, Somalis should know who their next president is, but this long-delayed vote only involves the country’s 329 MPs and takes place in a heavily fortified area.
The unusual circumstances highlight Somalia’s security issues, as well as the lack of democratic accountability.
The capital, Mogadishu, is in total lockdown until Monday morning.
The winner among the record 35 candidates will also have to deal with the impact of the ongoing drought.
But the big task is to wrest control of much of Somalia from al-Shabab.
The al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militant group continues to dominate large parts of the country and carries out frequent attacks in Mogadishu, and elsewhere.
The federal government is backed in its fight against al-Shabab by the African Union, in the shape of some 18,000 troops, and the United Nations.
Somalia has not had a one-person-one-vote democratic election since 1969.
That vote was followed by a coup, dictatorship and conflict involving clan militias and Islamist extremists.
The instability is one of the reasons why Somalia has been unable to hold direct elections.
This is only the third time that the indirect election for president has been able to take place in Somalia itself. Previous ones were held in neighbouring Kenya and Djibouti.