Somalia’s new electoral proposals kick up storm

Mohamed Hussein Roble.

Somalia Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble.

Photo credit: AFP

Somalia’s opposition figures on Monday opposed a new framework for elections in which delegate lists would be determined by leaders of federal states.

The Council of Presidential Candidates (CPC), a grouping of more than a dozen presidential aspirants, have rejected the framework on grounds that it was taking rights of locals away and giving them to federal state presidents who may manipulate the vote.

The group, which includes former president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, warned that such election criteria will likely cause civil strife as the public and international partners were likely to lose confidence in the new administration.  

“The Council is unequivocally opposed to the election protocols agreed upon by the National Consultative Forum,” they said, citing provisions on traditional elders, civil society, selection and verification of delegates, who will now be vetted and determined by the five federal state presidents.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Hussein Roble, who chairs the Forum, and leaders of Puntland, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, South West and Jubbaland states, as well as the Governor of Banadir Region, issued a new framework in Mogadishu on how to elect members of the Lower House. 

The Lower House, or House of the People, is expected to fill its 275 seats. The Forum said the delegates to vote for MPs will be determined by federal states.

They will be selected by the traditional clan leaders and civil society actors from each clan to which a parliamentary seat is allocated. The civil society actors participating in the selection of the delegates will be nominated by the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT). 

Delegates will be barred from contesting for the electoral seats, and candidates will also be required to pay a hefty fee to be allowed to contest.

But the Council argues that the proposals violate the voting structure in the agreed indirect election, where clans were to retain powers on deciding delegates to vote for seats allocated to their group. 

Traditionally, the Lower House of the bicameral federal parliament is such that clans are allocated seats to fill, giving elders near-absolute influence to determine delegates. In this case, some 135 registered elders were to pick delegates, under supervision from the electoral commission. Handing that power to the federal state presidents will dilute ability of clans to front their choices.

The Council said on Monday that each clan should be allowed to select its delegates, through clan elders, with the role of the regional governments limited to security and provision of venues.

“The Council views the protocols for the election of the House of the People as being against both the letter and spirit of the constitution and the 27th May Agreement, which stipulates that elections must be free, fair, and transparent.

Squabbles, delays 

The new storm could likely create a new rift that could delay elections further.

Initially scheduled for between December last year and February 2021, the poll date has dragged on as leaders haggle over the model of elections.  

They had agreed in September last year that an indirect election model was to be exercised rather that universal suffrage. However, squabbles over the electoral procedures have delayed the elections. 

So far, states have partially held Senate elections, but those seats for the Upper House too have raised complaints as federal state leaders handpick candidates to be voted by the local state legislative assemblies. 

As per the existing timeline, the election season is meant to end on October 10 when a joint session of the bicameral parliament (54 senators and 275 MPs) will vote for the post of President of the Federal Republic of Somalia.

On Sunday, PM Roble’s team agreed to hold senate elections for Somaliland in Mogadishu, with the region’s two senior-most politicians allowed to select delegates who will vote. 

Somaliland is generally considered a special region. Although it declared unrecognised independence in 1993, representatives are usually elected to join the bicameral house in Mogadishu. Somaliland itself says it has nothing to do with the vote and refuses to host those polls.

“The election of the MPs representing Somaliland will be supervised by the office of PM Roble,” the Forum said in a declaration. 

All those involved in the election of the legislators have been instructed to ensure that 30 per cent of the seats are allocated for women.