Somali lawmakers voted to remove Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire and his cabinet, a move that is likely to delay elections, deteriorating recent gains in the Horn of Africa nation.
A hundred and seventy members of parliament supported the vote while eight rejected, according to Speaker Mohamed Mursal Abdirahman.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo is required to appoint a new premier in 30 days, but may do so in days.
“The rift between the government and the legislature is undermining the progress that has been made, and to that end I have decided to consider the voice of the House of Representatives as the foundation of our nationhood,” Farmajo said in a statement carried on state media.
Khaire, a former oil executive, was appointed in February 23 and approved by parliament in March 2017.
The country is planning to go for elections, but it is still unclear what kind of elections it will have. The electoral commission said it is planning to hold a one person, one vote in a year, while the opposition is calling for a timely election which means it prefers the current clan system where clan elders pick legislators.
How the ambitions of Hassan Ali Khaire contributed to his fall
In mid-2018, Hassan Ali Khaire assembled his communications team and asked them to build a strong social media presence for his office and create a public image for himself. He wanted his government’s work to be publicised and to show Somalis and the world a new prime ministerial office never seen before in the post-civil war Somalia. He wanted to portray a powerful, superior prime minister.
The immediate-former prime minister was the only government official running three different Twitter accounts. The official account for the office of the prime minister, two personal accounts; one in English (and Somali) and the other in Arabic – to communicate with the Arab world – Somalia is a member of the Arab League, and the Gulf countries play their geopolitics in Somalia. Other politicians did not think of this, but Khaire did. He is a former corporate executive and an NGO manager. Khaire understands the importance of media more than other Somali politicians do. He is the most eloquent politician Somalia has seen in recent decades.
President Mohamed Farmajo and PM Khaire set to finish their first term in office together, run for office again and return to Villa Somalia together, but Khaire had an ambition, a presidential ambition. He wanted to succeed Farmajo, and Farmajo knew it. No one saw their break up coming.
Since 2000, every president had some sort of disagreement with his prime minister. Farmajo and Khaire had disagreements but it was hidden from the public. Because of this, Khaire became the longest serving premier in the post-civil war era.
The debate around Somalia’s election of which no one knows when and how it will happen is what killed the broamance between Farmajo and Khaire. The trust between the two has been broken. Farmajo wants a direct election in which the Somali public can pick their political representatives. The president’s opponents say a direct election will not be possible, and that Farmajo is using the universal suffrage as an excuse to extend his term in office. Khaire was seen as supporting the ideas of his boss’ opponents; he always called for timely polls, although the government never said it would delay elections.
There is no love lost between the leaders of the federal member states (FMS) and Farmajo. Khaire thought this was an opportunity to exploit: get closer to these leaders and alienate the president. When FMS leaders gathered in the central town of Dhuusamareeb in July to discuss the electoral process, Khaire left Mogadishu and joined them to negotiate for clan-based election which would take place as schedule. Days later, Farmajo flew to Dhuusamareeb and joined other leaders, beating Khaire at his own game. It was a battle of tactics won by Farmajo.
FMS leaders accidentally exposed Khaire in his double-dealing between Farmajo and FMS leaders. According to privy sources, Khayre prodded FMSs to reject one person, one vote in private while he pretended to be on Farmajo’s side in public.
In one of those farewell banquets in Dhuusamareeb, one FMS leader told Farmajo to drop the quest for one person, one vote like every other principal. It was like saying, ‘your PM is with us on this.’
One Western country was fond of Khaire to the extent that their diplomats in Halane were openly hostile to Farmajo in favour of his prime minister. To that end, that particular country was indirectly pushing for indirect elections which they thought will favour Khaire. Inside sources say that this particular country pushed the envelope too hard in not only giving Khaire false hope of easy presidency but also made him alienate his boss and the parliament.
The Lower House has passed an election law backing the one person, one vote election, but the Senate isn’t convinced about the possibility of direct polls. Sources within the Senate say Khaire was behind a statement by the Upper House leadership disagreeing with the possibility of holding a direct election, and called for talks between the president and the FMS leaders. On the electoral issue, Farmajo and Khaire have been pulling from different ends, Khaire whispering behind the president’s back silently, according to Villa Somalia insiders.
“We cannot lead a country when the prime minister is working against the president. The president is giving Somalis a chance to elect their leaders direct, and Khaire is against this,” a close ally of President Farmajo told The Frontier.
On July 25, three days after the Dhuusamareeb conference concluded, the Somali parliament voted to withdraw confidence from PM Khaire and his administration. At mid-night, he accepted the parliamentary decision and resigned.
US says Somali parliament’s removal of Khayre ‘illegal’
The United States has expressed regrets over the removal of Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre from office in a vote of no-confidence by parliament.
The US embassy in Mogadishu, in a statement, said there has been ‘irregularities’ in the vote to withdraw confidence in Prime Minister Khayre and his government. It said the action of the parliament and the president ‘heightened political tensions and undermined the ongoing process of dialogue and negotiation’ between the Federal Government of Somalia, Federal Member States, and other key stakeholders.
“This irregular process is a setback for the reform agenda Somalia has pursued with the support of the United States. Somalia’s stability, security, and prosperity can only be built through cooperation, coordination, and compromise among Somalia’s leaders; if any individual or institution seeks to dominate the others, it undermines the stability of the entire nation,” read part of the statement.
The embassy said the only path forward to timely, peaceful, implementable federal elections is through broad-based consultation and constructive dialogue among stakeholders.
Developing a workable, broadly acceptable election model is key to preserving Somalia’s security and stability, it said.
The US is one of Somalia’s key donors and supports its military. The United States has provided more than $3 billion in humanitarian assistance for Somalia since fiscal year 2006 to address the problems of drought, famine, and refugees. Since 2011, the United States has provided an additional $253 million in development assistance to support economic, political, and social sectors to achieve greater stability, establish a formal economy, obtain access to basic services, and attain representation through legitimate, credible governance.
Last year, the US reopened a bureau for the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, that has been closed since a civil war began here in 1991.
The US has around 500 soldiers and military advisors based in Somalia that often accompany the Somali army and special operations forces on ground raids against al Shabab group.
Which way for Somalia, universal suffrage or status quo? No one knows.
Somali political leaders have been meeting in the central city of Dhusamareeb in the last few days to resolve their differences and steer the country in the right direction.
The key agenda of the summit between the federal government and its member states was the issue of the 2020/21 election: whether to hold a direct election where Somalis would pick their representatives by themselves or whether to retain the status quo where elders pick lawmakers and clans share political power.
Although no solution was reached, the leaders agreed to form a joint technical team to work towards finding the best electoral model for the country.
In February this year, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo signed an electoral bill into law, paving way for a one person, one vote for the first time in 50 years.
Parliamentary and presidential elections were scheduled to take place late 2020 and early 2021 respectively, but the electoral commission said a direct election is not feasible and can only take happen one year from now.
Halima Ismail Ibrahim, the electoral body chairperson, said her commission needs at least 13 months to prepare for free, fair, and credible elections.
The 2020-2021 elections have been the subject of much fanfare. President Farmajo promised a one person, one vote during his ‘state of the nation’ address in June.
No one knows which electoral path Somalia will take. Those in favour of indirect polls and want the status quo to remain argue that for a credible one person, one vote to take place, parliament has to pass election and political parties laws, the constitutional review process must be completed, voters must be registered, a constitutional court to handle electoral dispute should be set up, the federal government and federal member states must reach a political agreement, and most importantly, security must be improved. They say most of these are not in place right now.
Holding a universal suffrage election needs a two-year preparation. The electoral commission needs 24 months to plan for a credible poll, if preparations start today. The opposition feel the government is not sincere in its call for a direct election and is only meant for an avenue to extend its term in office.
“Somali President needs to face this fact that his government failed to usher in one-person-one-vote on time and the election commission reported one person, one vote cannot happen on time and within the legal mandate,” says Abdirashid Hashi, the director of Heritage Institute, a think-tank based in Mogadishu.
“Thus instead of repeating ‘we want one person, one vote’ the president should say: please I need an extension.”
Proponents of universal suffrage say there is already an existing law mandating electoral body to hold a one person, one vote, allowing Somalis to choose the leaders they want directly.
Al Shabab, which continues to target clan elders responsible for picking members of parliament in 2016, will manipulate the election if indirect polls do take place. Elders will be forced to pick al Shabab-designated candidates or they will have to abandon their role of selecting candidates.
“By assassinating a number of traditional elders and delegates who participated in the last federal and state elections and “pardoning” those who would “repent,” al Shabab made it abundantly clear that they will be monitoring and directing all selections in Somalia in the future – with swaying the national elections as their top prize,” says Adam Aw Hirsi, a Somalia policy analyst and former Minister of Planning of Jubbaland state.
“Take the possibility of elders selecting MPs or delegates off the table as that might translate into an al Shabab parliament and government in 2021,” he says.
Even as Somalis debate which electoral model to take, it is still unclear whether any form of election can happen on time.
If proponents of indirect elections have their way, still there will be delays. The current law requires the use of technology in elections, thus the need for parliamentary amendment which will take time. Parliament will also need to undo the electoral laws it passed and the president needs to sign that. How long can this take?
“Indirect elections themselves cannot happen on time in Somalia as things stand. The reason is that indirect elections will require a completely different mechanism as NIEC (National Independent Electoral Commission) is not mandated to manage them,” Aw Hirsi told the BBC.
Whether Somalis go for a direct election or whether they go for an indirect one, delay is inevitable.
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