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Somalia’s 2020 electoral options include direct polls, but reality won’t allow that

Organising such an election within the remaining eight months of the current parliament is unfeasible

Editorial Team

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In eight months, the term of the current Somalia parliament will end, and the president and his government will have five more months to leave office and hold an election, but the country still does not know which electoral model to take.

Somalia is in dilemma; it has two electoral options, one person, one vote and the clan system, each with its own risks. But some within the government and its international partners want to gamble and subject the country to universal suffrage although Somalia has not fulfilled any condition to hold this kind of election. Others fear the introduction of universal suffrage may make them lose power, which they enjoy now because of a clan power-sharing formula.

Somali clans share power through a system known as 4.5, where the main four clans share political power equally, and the minority ones share the remaining 0.5. Although major clans are satisfied with the application of this system, smaller clans feel that it does discriminate against them.

A free, fair and credible one person, one vote election is not only difficult to hold in either late 2020 or early 2021, but it is impossible considering the facts on the ground. Organising such an election within the remaining eight months of the current parliament is unfeasible.

For a credible one person, one man vote to take place in Somalia, 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. None of these is in place right now.

Democratic elections require a peaceful environment. Al-Shabab remains a threat to Somalia’s democratisation process. Some parts of Somalia are still under al Shabab control, and people living there cannot participate in an election. The al-Qaeda-linked group, without doubt, will try to disrupt any form of an election the country pursues, but a direct poll is very risky. Civilians in urban areas where the government and the African Union mission control may fear to take part because of al Shabab threats that they will target polling centres and anyone who participates in the election.

Until today, al Shabab continues to target clan elders who participated in the 2016 elections, killing dozens of them.

Insecurity will also affect the operations of political parties that aim to take part in the next elections. The law requires them to open offices in half of the country’s provinces, some of which have significant al-Shabab presence.

The government may try to extend its term in office to ‘buy time to organise an election’ which will be a reputational risk for Somali’s statehood, and it could plunge the country back into crisis, jeopardizing gains made in the last few years.  Opposition political parties have expressed their concern about a poll delay for another year or two.

In the absence of a universal suffrage election, the 4.5 model which is currently in place offers by far the most predictable path towards inclusivity in Somalia’s fragile post-conflict society.

Until an enabling environment suitable for a credible election is created, and an alternative election model, agreeable to all Somalis, is placed on the table, the clan system remains the stability factor for the country.

Somalia and its international partners must direct all efforts to secure the country and create effective public institutions to enable universal suffrage in 2024.

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Politics

How the ambitions of Hassan Ali Khaire contributed to his fall

Editorial Team

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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.

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Politics

US says Somali parliament’s removal of Khayre ‘illegal’

Editorial Team

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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.

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Politics

Somali parliament removes Prime Minister Ali Khayre

Editorial Team

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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.

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