In Somalia, the electoral model becomes a fixed point that can create or break the historical voting plan
EDITORIAL | Two things happened this week, all of which affected Somalia. The IMF Board approved a financial scheme that could see the institution cover its share of debt relief for Somalia.
The financing plan, which includes subsidies, will be used to settle part of the debt owed by Somalia, prompting Mogadishu to start redressing lending with lenders in a scheme called the Heavyly Inebeded Poor Country Initiative (HIPC).
“It is a positive step towards debt relief that could be a good opportunity for Somalia to get investments that I hope will go through a fair, just and transparent system,” Somali Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan told Axadleon Wednesday.
Debt relief should have been a big thing in Somalia because it seeks to block access to international financial credit needed to build roads, equip and train public services as well as secure government guarantees for lenders to private companies.
Instead, the second event is what creates heat. The Somali parliament has discussed the content of the election law, which could define next year’s elections.
Somalia’s two levels of the federal parliament, known as the House of Commons and the Senate, could make history this month by deciding how this country will vote next year. Or they can throw it further into chaos.
And provided Somalia votes at all, the key questions would be whether it would be on time and who would actually vote. The planned Somali transition plan four years ago states that all qualified Somalis must vote in what is popularly called the One Person One Vote system (1P1V).
Still, there seem to be conflicting views on the 1P1V itself [One Person, One Vote]. In public, President Farmaajo and his cabinet say only 1P1V will help the country avoid Shabaab’s plague by locking out unqualified candidates tainted by extremism.
Privately, the leadership wants a model that turns the whole of Somalia into a constituency where parties rather than candidates compete and then appoint people to be representatives based on the total votes.
The president must come from the party that wins a majority of 50% + 1 vote in parliament. This can mean any party that brings together 140 MPs or more in parliament.
While this could help deal with certain voting costs, some sources indicated that there had been no agreement between Farmaajo and his prime minister on whether Parliament should have a role in electing a president.
In fact, opposition groups on Wednesday raised suspicions that this method was unconstitutional and that the vote could be skewed, as insecure regions may not be able to hold elections, allowing the incumbent to win seats in areas it controls.
Mohamed Hassan Idriss, a federal MP who is allied with the opposition coalition, told the Forum of National Parties that no model will be accepted if imposed on the people.
“If you ask my opinion, elections must be held in accordance with the conversation of all Somali political stakeholders. Period! This is not a wish. ”
The federal parliament could discuss further changes to the election law next week. But it is a problem that should have been seen earlier, according to Somali lawyer Hamza Abdikadir Sadik in Mogadishu.
Analyzing the political scene over the past few years, Sadik says President Farmaajo should have learned earlier that any bulldozing will be resisted. Three years ago, the Somali Federal Cabinet approved a draft model known as Proportional Representation (PR), a system in which qualified political parties enter the race as candidates and gain seats in parliament based on votes obtained in elections.
Apart from opponents, this proposal claimed had not been exposed to public views. When the Somali federal parliament formed a committee, it joined another model in which the winner of the majority vote manages the seat. The proposal is due to be discussed in Parliament next week.
Yet that may not be all that Somalia needs now.
“None of the preconditions for a legitimate and credible universal electoral vessel have been adequately addressed and signed,” Sadik told Garowe Online, citing constitutional review, security transition and the formation of important electoral and judicial bodies.
The Benadir region, which hosts Mogadishu, and the status of Northwestern Somalia, which has sought independence from Somalia, he argued, are the other two issues that need to be addressed to avoid causing new problems of instability.
“Preparations for the transition to universal suffrage based on political parties have lost momentum, and any attempt to create a misunderstanding process will more likely increase electoral fraud,” he argued, referring to the FNP’s decision to enter into dialogue with government on Thursday.
But Somalia cannot risk holding the vote at all. The risk hovers over both federal and federal state governments, Sadik explained.
“Not holding free and fair elections on time can destroy the little trust Somalis can have in Villa Somalia. If regional states and political parties remain deliberately compliant in the matter, they may also risk losing legitimacy. This historic election could break or repair Somalia. ”
How did Somalia get here? The historic referendum was planned right from the time the Somali interim federal government was set up at home more than a decade ago. In subsequent polls, Somalis voted through a system known as 4.5. Four main clans plus several other small ones sent delegates to Mogadishu to elect MPs who would elect a speaker and the country’s president.
“It worked at the time, but it was not a solution,” Idriss told Garowe Online. “What the people want now is a system they can use to directly elect their leaders.”
One minister claimed that the government’s position is that 4.5 could now allow Shabaab to infiltrate politics because “the elders (who appoint delegates) are now tainted or threatened” to send delegates sympathetic to the terrorist group.
But can Somalia have one person one vote next year? Somalia’s former planning minister, now leader of the Wadajir party, accuses the government of looking away from the reality on the ground.
“The federal government has failed to prepare the country for a single voting system for one person,” he said, referring to the lack of a census, voter registration, the introduction of citizenship and electoral law, as well as war between the federal government and states.
“Anyone who entertains the idea of a person with one vote next year is insinuating period extension. We need to face reality and enter into dialogue to agree on an inclusive, timely, improved model of the 2016 elections in accordance with the Constitution.
On Wednesday, UN-led international partners said any election model should “respect the Constitution” and ensure that federal elections are held on time “without extending the terms of the executive committee or parliament.”
Equitable representation of all Somali communities and allowing the Somali people to directly elect their representatives through a single vote, said James Swan, the UN representative in Somalia, should form key criteria that will also include the appropriate role of political parties and the participation of women .
“Partners call on the House of Commons and the Senate of the Federal Parliament to complete the adoption of the Electoral Code and the revised Political Parties Act by the end of 2019,” Swan said in a statement.
While urging institutions in Somalia to “resolve their differences and enter into a constructive dialogue”, the FNP announced that it was stopping further engagement until the federal government promised to share discussions with the public as proof of commitment to finding a solution.
The FNP, chaired by former President Sharif Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, includes his party Himilo Qaran, UPD, Progressive Party, Peace Party, Kulan and Ilays, which became the first coalition in Somalia’s history.
And while they have not yet announced whether they will run in front of a candidate, their demands correspond to what the international partners have demanded.
The group said it would oppose any election that did not comply with the Constitution, and “disregarding a faithful and sincere mechanism by which all stakeholders can find a common ground to hold acceptable, free and fair elections on time and in line with with existing constitutional and other legal frameworks. “
“It would be unfair to expect the FNP to waste time in fruitless discussions with a president who has a habit of nodding in meetings but does not have the courage to share the result with the public,” they said.
However, some of the coalition partners were open to alternatives as long as they were formed by public consensus.
“The model that emerges from the current discussions will be possible if one person one vote is not possible,” said Abdikadir Osoble, leader of the Ilays Party.
“We have to go to the polls, no matter what model suits our current situation. Any extension of Parliament can encourage the extension of the President, which would be unacceptable. ”
Some politicians had in fact called for a delay in the voting and again extended the parliamentary term by two years to allow them to elect an interim president. But critics like Abdishakur have argued that there is no evidence that the government could use enlargement to organize an appropriate vote.