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Coronavirus or no coronavirus, Somalia opposition wants election

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Former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed leads Himilo Qaran, one of the main parties of Forum for National Parties
   

The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted planned events across the world; sporting activities postponed indefinitely, UN climate conference put on hold, and elections in many countries delayed.

But in Somalia, leading opposition parties are demanding for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held on time, without considering whether the country can manage an election in an era of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The Forum for National Parties (FNP), an alliance of six political parties, including two parties led by former presidents, Sharif Ahmed and Hassan Mohamud, accused the government of ‘overlooking the urgency of implementing the multi-party system in the country, and interfering in the activities of a joint parliamentary committee on elections, leading to suspension of its work drafting and completion of an electoral law, saying those are tactics to delay the polls.’

Somalia is scheduled to hold both parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021 respectively. Although an electoral law has been passed, it is still unclear whether the country will go for a one person, one vote election or maintain the status quo where clan elders will pick members of parliament who will in turn elect a president.

Should Somalia delay its election?

Kenya is delaying five by-elections because of Covid-19. The country has so far recorded close to 200 cases and four deaths.

Ethiopia announced postponement of its parliamentary elections, and in the US, States have put off presidential primary votes.

Elections have been rescheduled before. In 2018, the Democratic Republic of Congo delayed the presidential poll because of Ebola. In 2001 the UK general election was held off because of the spread of foot and mouth disease across the country.

The most important reason for postponing an election is the health of everyone involved. It will be difficult to hold an election without exposing those involved to the risk of contracting the new coronavirus.

Although coronavirus cases in Somalia stand at seven, people should not take chances, and must abide by government directives and scientific advice in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.

An election is the opposite of ‘social-distancing.’ It is a public event that deliberately bring together people to exchange ideas about the future direction of their country. It involves candidates and their supporters holding campaign rallies and events.

Elections are also supposed to be a time for talking. Simply holding an election is insufficient because citizens should actively consider their interests and the issues; weigh up competing arguments made by candidates; and discuss them around the dinner table, and in coffee shops.

Then, on election day, citizens, in this case, MPs, if Somalia doesn’t hold direct elections, turn up to polling stations (and airport hangars) and are handed a ballot paper. Election staff, who work extremely hard to keep Somalia’s democracy moving, will also be affected.

Elections do bring a lot of people together. Somalia’s election involves people and candidates coming in from Europe and the United States, the current epicenter of the novel coronavirus, unknowingly bringing the virus with them.

However, postponing an election could result in leaders, both at the legislature and the executive, remaining in office longer.

Postponement should be the last resort, but if the coronavirus does not go away in the next few months, political stakeholders in Somalia should reach consensus on a clearly agreed timetable for rescheduling is crucial. Democracy relies on a responsible government and political parties, who should put the lives of fellow citizens first before their interest.

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Politics

Madobe and Deni put off Mogadishu visit for days

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Jubbaland and Puntland leaders addressing the press in Garowe after a consultative conference. Photo: Garowe Online
   

The leaders of Jubbaland and Puntland regional governments have delayed their visit to Mogadishu for talks with the federal government.

Ahmed Madobe and Said Deni, who were expected in the Somali capital on Thursday, will be traveling to Mogadishu mid next week, The Frontier has learnt.

The two leaders were absent from the third round of talks in Dhusamareeb last week where President Mohamed Farmajo and three regional leaders and the mayor of Mogadishu signed an electoral deal that will pave way for ‘timely’ elections. Both Madobe and Deni rejected the Dhusamareeb outcome, but after local and international pressure, they are now open for further talks.

According to the deal, a constituency caucus of 301 delegates will elect a member of parliament, political parties compete for seats which will be presided over the National Independent Electoral Commission. State assemblies will elect the Senate (Upper House).

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Politics

After skipping Dhusamareeb parley, Madobe and Deni expected in Mogadishu for talks with Farmajo

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Photo: Goobjoog News
   

The leader of Jubbaland state government, Ahmed Madobe, and his Puntland counterpart Said Deni, will be traveling to Mogadishu on Thursday, August 27, to meet President Mohamed Farmajo, sources within Puntland State House and Villa Somalia have told The Frontier.

The leaders will discuss the outcome of Dhusamareeb summit, where Farmajo and three other regional leaders and the governor of Banadir agreed on an electoral model ‘suitable’ for the country.

According to the deal, a constituency caucus of 301 delegates will elect a member of parliament, political parties compete for seats which will be presided over the National Independent Electoral Commission. State assemblies will elect the Senate (Upper House).

Madobe and Deni skipped the meeting in Dhusamareeb, and said the agreement reached there  is a ‘political position limited to the views of leaders who attended that conference and we are not part of the conference and had no any representatives in the summit.’

They claimed Villa Somalia has failed to implement the previous Dhusamareeb conference by engineering the removal of Prime Minister Hassan Khaire, whose administration was tasked with implementing the outcome of the conference, in a bid to extend the government’s term in office, and failing to nominate a new premier to move the work forward and allowing a caretaker government in place.

Since the Dhusamareeb lll summit, Somalia’s international partners have been pressuring Madobe and Deni to come to the table and join other leaders in finding a solution to the country’s political crisis.

“Madobe and Deni are traveling to Mogadishu on Thursday as pressure from the IC (international community) heightens,” a top Somali official told The Frontier.

The Dhusamareeb deal awaits a parliamentary approval. Before that, Madobe and Deni could ask for amendments and give their signatures.

 

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Somalia Elections

What happens in Dhusamareeb doesn’t stay in Dhusamareeb

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The political crisis in Somalia continues despite leaders of the federal government, federal member states and the mayor of Mogadishu reaching an electoral agreement in the central city of Dhusamareeb. Two of Somalia’s five federal member states are opposing the deal.

On Thursday, 20th August, President Mohamed Farmajo and the leaders of Galmudug, Hirshabelle and South West states and the mayor of Mogadishu, agreed on an election deal that that will take place on schedule, and a little bit different from the last election of 2016.

According to the deal, a constituency caucus of 301 delegates will elect a member of parliament, political parties compete for seats which will be presided over the National Independent Electoral Commission. State assemblies will elect the Senate (Upper House).

The drama surrounding Somalia’s election is being watched by local as well as outside players with keen interest in the country’s ability to hold free and credible polls.

The leaders of Jubbaland and Puntland who did not attend the latest round of talks rejected the outcome of the summit. They said the agreement reached in Dhusamareeb is a ‘political position limited to the views of leaders who attended that conference and we are not part of the conference and had no any representatives in the summit.’

“Ahmed Madobe and Said Deni, the leaders of Jubbaland and Puntland, could have attended the conference and present their views. No one could force them to agree with the other leaders,” Afyare Elmi, associated professor of security studies, Qatar University told the BBC.

“Other stakeholders, such as the national opposition and the civil society groups, could also have been invited to the conference to herald a broader political consensus,” he said.

Although with conditions, the Forum for National Parties – a coalition of opposition parties led by former presidents Sharif Ahmed and Hassan Mohamud – welcomed the agreement, saying that it is a step taken to the right direction moving the country closer to holding inclusive and timely election.

The agreement reached in Dhusamareeb is not binding; its implementation depends on the approval by the House of the People. President Farmajo, while addressing the Lower House before departing to Dhusamareeb last week, told members any electoral deal would be brought before the House for debate and approval.

According to the Provisional Federal Constitution, parliament must be elected through universal direct suffrage, thus the need for parliament to approve or reject the Dhusamareeb agreement.

There is concern about real political instability brewing between Jubbaland Puntland on one hand and the federal government on the other due to the strongly held divergent views among leaders and high political tensions in this pre-electoral period.

Farmajo has conceded much in Dhusamareeb. He has offered to sacrifice one of his legacies – leading the country to a one person, one vote. By abandoning a direct election which he advocated for to end a stalemate, he has angered many of his supporters who are overwhelmingly in favour of universal suffrage.

Somalis, in general, would probably be delighted to participate in an election they can participate in, but would want the next election, whether universal suffrage or indirect, held in a fair and credible manner, free from corruption as witnessed in 2016.

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