Connect with us

Somalia Elections

Which way for Somalia, universal suffrage or status quo? No one knows.

Editorial Team

Published

on

Somali leaders at a meeting in Dhuusamareeb, central Somalia.
   

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.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Somalia Elections

Somalia’s opposition called for timely elections — now they have to wait for a year

Editorial Team

Published

on

   

Somalia will not hold a general election as scheduled, the country’s electoral chief has told parliament, a move likely to attract criticism from the opposition which called for poll to take place on schedule ‘no matter what.’

Halima Ismail Ibrahim, the chairperson of the National Independent Electoral Commission, said holding a one person, one vote is not feasible, and it can only be held a year from now.

Halima said her commission needs at least 13 months to prepare for free, fair, and credible elections.

The Horn of Africa nation was supposed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections in September 2020 and February 2021 respectively.

The commission has proposed another option, a manual process, which can take place in March 2021. For this to happen, the election law to be amended: the law requires the use of technology.

The 2020-2021 elections have been the subject of much fanfare. They will be the country’s first one person-one vote elections in 50 years. The public will have the chance to directly elect their representatives, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo promised Somalis during his ‘state of the nation’ address earlier this month.

But there is a problem: the chances that universal elections will actually take place in the next one year are approximately zero.

Although the president signed an election bill into law in February, paving way for the country to hold its first ever popular election in half a century, and which political parties can compete for power, holding a free, fair and credible one person, one vote election is not only difficult but also impossible because of the facts on the ground.

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. Most of these are not in place right now. Thirteen months is not enough to prepare a democratic election, the electoral commission needs two years to prepare.

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 forces control may fear to take part because of al Shabab threats that it will target polling centres and anyone who participates in the election.

If Somalia chooses to go for universal suffrage, it needs at least two years, from now, to prepare elections in 2022.

Somalia’s main opposition, the Forum for National Parties (FNP), a coalition of six parties, led by two former presidents, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, have been calling for a timely election, no matter what – whether the country is prepared to hold an election or not and whether Covid-19 can pose a serious threat during elections or not.

The opposition and its supporters have expressed concern over poll delays, on several occasions, and the possibility of holding direct elections. The call to abandon universal suffrage will now get louder and the status quo will remain: clans will continue to share political power.

The government and the opposition, and other stakeholders need to come together and find an agreement on the way forward and avoid violence, and reach consensus on a clearly agreed timetable for rescheduling is crucial.

Continue Reading

Somalia Elections

Farmajo is promising an election he cannot deliver

Editorial Team

Published

on

   

Even as Somalia prepares for an election later this year or early 2021, Somalis do not know which path to take: hold a one person, one vote or maintain the status quo where clan elders select members of parliament, each with its own risks.

The source of this confusion is lack of preparedness by the federal government and other actors. The government has just eight months in office, and has little time to prepare for any form of election. The president is scheduled to leave office by February 8 2021, but he will stay on for at least six months: no timeline has been set for the election, whether a direct election or clan-based one, and because of Covid-19, it may take longer to prepare for an election.

On June 6, during a ‘state of the nation’ address in parliament, Farmajo promised Somalis a direct election, where they will be choosing their political representatives directly. Farmajo wants to gamble and subject the country to universal suffrage — Somalia has not fulfilled key conditions to hold this kind of election. Some doubt whether a direct election can happen.

Others, like some in the opposition, 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 ones feel that it does discriminate against them.

Although the president signed an election bill into law, paving way for the country to hold its first ever popular election in half a century, and which political parties can compete for power, holding a free, fair and credible one person, one vote election is not only difficult but also impossible because of the facts on the ground.

Organising such an election within the remaining eight months of the current parliament is unfeasible, but the president insists the direct direction will help Somalis pick their leaders democratically.

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. Most of these are not 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 forces control may fear to take part because of al Shabab threats that it 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. The government should focus more on defeating al Shabab and securing the country, redirecting most attention and resources to this cause., while not forgetting its other responsibilities.

The opposition accuses the government of trying 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.

If Somalia chooses to go for universal suffrage, it needs at least two years, from now, to prepare. This is why the opposition parties have expressed concern about a poll delay. They want an election right now, no matter what — whether the country holds direct polls or clan elders continue to do the selection, whether there is Covid-19 or not, and whether all conditions are fulfilled. They oppose the direct election because it will take time to take place.

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 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.

Continue Reading

Somalia Elections

Somalia’s Motley Crew of Machinating Aspirants: Time for Bold New Ideas

Editorial Team

Published

on

Somalia Senate in a past session.
   

By Adam Aw Hirsi

 

Subax dhalatay caadkeeda

Ha ka bogan wax saarkeeda

Adiguba samee maanta

Berritana sargoo heedhe

Noloshaba inaad saafto

Qaabayso saabkeeda

Waxaan suura gelin maaha

 

As every morning brings its uniqueness

Exhaust not your energy by complaining

Get in front of it and make the day today

And proceed and shape the morrow

To have the essence of life in clarity

And formulate its core for your good

Is indeed not impossible thing to do.

 

Hadraawi, M.W. “The Essence of Life”

 

The Impetus

Amid whistleblowing stomping and shouting honorable members of Somali parliament, the Speaker of the House of the People, Hon. Mursal Abdirahman is yelling on the highest of his lungs. Quiet! Quiet! Quiet! Order! Order! Order! May the orderlies keep the order! May the orderlies please keep the order! Let us respect the parliament! Let us have some decorum! For God’s sake! Let us let the President speak. For God’s sake! Let us let the President speak. One particular MP is repeating in a loud voice, “does the president know his leadership has failed the country?” Two members of the parliament, a lady and a man could be seen engaged in a tussle over an object, later confirmed by eyewitnesses to be a whistle.

Unfazed, President (Mohamed) Farmaajo known for his reticence and extraordinary politeness, uncharacteristically cracks a joke “It is lunch time. May the Honorable MP with the whistle go to lunch please?”  This was the pandemonium that saw the kickoff of the seventh session of the tenth parliament of Federal Republic of Somalia the other day. A consolation for the fainthearted, Somalia political discourse could be said is at its best any time after the state collapse. Not that very long ago, a bugle was in use instead of a whistle as political disputes like this one were settled in bloody battles.

With the help of the parliament leadership and perhaps by orderlies applying the parliament rules of decorum to the letter, the president finally managed to continue and finish his lengthy speech without further incidents. Among other things, the president clearly indicated that he prefers that the election takes place on time, that the people themselves, not their clan elders or warlords, should do the voting and that his administration will adhere to the constitutional provisions that give the National Independent Electoral Commission the mandate to manage and oversee the national elections.

The president also made an appeal to both houses of the parliament to make sure that “the capital city is given representation in the Upper House of the Parliament.” This is happening within little over seven months of February 08, 2021, the constitutional presidential Election Day for Somalia.

When one looks at it soberly and objectively, the hassle and the puzzle, the whistle and all the other sporadic kerfuffle, the Status of the Capital and all the other deafening clarion calls on this side, and rosy patriotic songs on the other, are all about the upcoming elections. Elections, elections, and nothing but the elections.

Complicated Scenery

In the upcoming elections in Somalia, there are more seriously interested parties than can be casually enumerated. And Al Shabaab is the most consequential and dangerous player. With a lot of external negativities and local disadvantages happening around them, this terrorist group has rightly assessed the fact that for them a complete military victory is unthinkable. They, therefore, decided to play smart adapt influence or even take over politically. Sadly, with deep pockets coupled with a credible threat that could be taken to the morgues at their disposal, Al Shabaab is far from being unrealistic in this ambition.

This terrorist outfit is already training Somali children in their ideology, collecting taxes in plain sight in all urban centers, mediating and adjudicating on disputes throughout Somalia, and calling some important administrative and economic shots in all if not most state governments in the country. Buoyed by these state level functions, Al Shabaab intends to go for the kill this upcoming election. They want to elect their favorite leaders to top government positions. It is no longer a secret that Al Shabaab has the majority of Somali traditional elders and a great number of eminent personalities either on payroll or in their realistic crosshairs.

By assassinating a number of traditional elders and delegates who participated in last federal and state elections and “pardoning” those who would “repent,” Al Shabaab 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.

Al Shabaab’s second best case scenario is community based strife and internal instability that will buy them a much-needed respite from possible coordinated and collective assaults. Those who were paying close attention would easily notice that traditional elders in Galkayo of Puntland, a relatively peaceful city in a stable state, wouldn’t so much as dare to defy Al Shabaab’s phone calls instructing them not to attend the funeral of the highly respected late Governor of Mudug, Ahmed Muse Nur. In short, Al Shabaab is paying close attention to the upcoming national elections and their most important leverage is a realistic fear they sowed in the traditional elders. This marks the first election in Somalia in which Al Shabaab is fully in the contest, albeit indirectly.

In real essence, the leaders of Federal Member States of Somalia, and before them the warlords, were equal co-chairs in electoral processes for at least the last two national elections: Puntland, Ahlu Sunna Waljamaa, and Galmudug (Galkayo South) in 2012 and all existing Federal Member States (FMS) in 2016/2017. In the last two election cycles, The FMS leaders went as far as deciding who gets to be in the national parliament – they nominated the entire senators in the Upper House. They cut deals in the open with foreign countries and other entities interested in Somalia national election outcomes.

The FMS leaders had a significant say in who gets to become a credible speaker of parliament, presidential candidate if not who wins the presidential election itself. This election year, even with a totally different set up, recalcitrant national leadership, up-and-running NIEC, and with senators they (or their predecessors) nominated still seated in national parliament, some of them remain insistent in playing their usual role in national elections.

From the outset, the disjointed but significant national opposition has all the necessary usual features of out-of-power political parties. Their ranks are boosted by a number of household names, former presidents, senior politicians, and they have sizable following in the political street and the social blogosphere. Within them one can find people with enormous institutional memories and most brilliant policy practitioners Somalia has ever had. Their Achilles’ heel is their lack of consistency, unity of purpose, policy articulation, pragmatism and national vision. Constructive criticism is not in their vocabulary and their flagrant disdain for consistency, constitutionality and positive public engagement is astounding. The only visible convergence among them seems to be berating the team in power.

On their part, the Federal Government leadership is clearly preoccupied with staying in power for another term. A number of dispassionate analysts rightly point out that the current team at The Villa Somalia had spent an obnoxious amount of resources and political capital on creating an environment they assumed conducive for their reelection. To this end, the Federal Government limited the political space, sought to smear legitimate dissent, curtailed freedom of speech and most importantly blurred the distinction between their association manifesto and national values and identity. The Federal Government threw cold water on NSArch (National Security Architecture), shelved the Judicial & Corrections Reform, effectively emasculated the Constitutional Review Process and ignored the benchmarks outlined in MAF 2019.

Needless to say, there is also an amalgam of special external and internal interests – some of them nefarious, others gullible – propping up all the sides mentioned above. Prominent in these are Somalia’s immediate neighbors, not so immediate neighbors and countries far, far away.

The Way Out

With Al Shabaab, the governing team, national opposition, some leaders of federal member states and special interests all in the race for election sway or victory in Somalia, the country can still hold a peaceful and acceptable election, continue to build on the security, social and economic gains made so far, defeat Al Shabaab in might and in mindset and reach its full potential to prosperity. This needs new bold ideas. It requires clarity, pragmatism, fortitude and objectivity from all sides directly involved – the Somalis.

  • Take the possibility of elders selecting MPs or delegates off the table as that might translate into an Al Shabaab parliament and government in 2021.
  • Empower the National Independence Electoral Commission (security, legal tools, expertise, financial resources, etc.)
  • FMS leaders adhere to the Constitution and defer national elections to relevant national bodies in which all FMSs are equitably represented.
  • FMS governments reorient themselves in making sure that district councils are in place in their states, so that the people in towns can actually choose their local leaders such as district councilors, district treasurers, mayors, et al.
  • Organize the national political parties and give them commensurate resources and significant say in the electoral process and management.
  • Extend the term of office for the federal institutions as necessary.
  • With the national opposition at the table, set new terms and benchmarked timelines for elections.
  • Execute elections on the new terms and timelines.
  • In the order listed.

 

Adam Aw Hirsi is a former Minister of Planning of Jubaland. He tweets at @JustAwHirsi and can be reached at ohirsia@hotmail.com.

Continue Reading

Trending

About
The Frontier is for the people — not the politicians, lobbysts and the powerful. We provide indepth and thoughtful analysis of what is happening around your world. We tell exclusive stories that matter to our audience, so they make better decisions and understand what is real.
Privacy Policy
The Frontier is committed to putting its users first. We strive to be transparent about how we collect and use your data and information, to keep them secure and to provide you meaningful choices.

Copyright © 2017-2020 The Frontiere. All Rights Reserved. Design by Rick Consult