EDITORIAL | Somalia’s federal parliament reopened on Saturday amid Jews from a section of lawmakers who were angry at the way President Mohamed Farmajo controlled things.
In the midst of the chaos, however, President Farmajo is to be commended for having promised that things will be “different” in the upcoming election. The leader promised that there would be elections for a one-person-vote, something that every Somali citizen under the age of 40 has never seen happen in the country.
Still, the president told a parliamentary session that Somalis should come out and “vote for the party they want to overcome the deadly diseases like tribalism, poverty and terrorism.”
There is one positive thing from this statement: it means that the Somali president is, after all, eager for an election to take place. There are also indications from Villa Somalia that the election should proceed as planned.
However, the promise made to Somalis on the floor of the house lacks clarity. First, there has been no consensus on the election model to be used in the forthcoming election. Such clarity can only come from stakeholder dialogue, which has been absent.
And this seems to be a symptom rather than a cause of the broken ties between the federal government of Somalia and federal member states. In public, Villa Somalia has often issued assurances that the election will be on time. In reality, however, there are small movements. The last formal meeting between President Farmajo and federal state administrators was in June 2018.
Last year, a side meeting in Galmudug last year in May left no concrete result. There has been a silence ever since, marked by occasional accusations of interference.
Axadleputs the responsibility on the door of President Farmajo and asks that he clarify how the election will proceed, as he promised with gaps in dialogue. We are pleased to hear more stakeholders join the call from Upper House management for an urgent dialogue between Villa Somalia and federal member states. Political parties, former presidents and Somalia’s donors have all endorsed this call.
Dialogue does not necessarily mean that there will be immediate agreement on the model, but it does offer the best platform for views to be exchanged and compromises to be made. Somalia’s recent history in the last decade has actually been about compromises.
For a country that rises only from the ashes of civil war, the benefits of leaders sitting to speak cannot be achieved. We note the divergent views on the necessary election model.
Some have argued that the remaining time may be too little to implement universal suffrage, which usually requires the Electoral Commission to register voters and set up polling stations across the country.
The upcoming election may require at least $ 53 million in conservative estimates to be eligible to participate. Add that to the ongoing security challenge posed by al-Shabaab, and the nightmare of running such an election becomes clear. The president risks being detached from reality by not elaborating his plan to the public as soon as possible.
So what is the alternative? The clan-based college system that served Somalis in the last three elections is now controversial. Puntland has said they will not participate in an election run on the clans’ delegated system. Jubaland and Puntland have further indicated that they will not even implement the controversial electoral law passed by parliament and approved by President Farmajo.
One of the contradictions in that law was that while Somalis have the free choice to elect leaders, clans retain influence to determine the actual election of representatives. We call on the 7th session of this House to address this irregularity as soon as possible. It should help with the correct constitutional changes that will clarify the relationship between the federal government and federal states.
We also call on the President of Somalia to clarify how a general suffrage election will be conducted when the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) has not received sufficient support.
We reject proposals to delay the extension of both Parliament’s and the President’s mandates. Somalis long for the days when they can choose leaders for themselves, rather than clan elders deciding their future.
We recognize that Somalia’s last free and fair election with one person-one vote took place in 1969. But this was followed by a terrible incident after the winner of this election, Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, was assassinated. If we have to avoid the mistakes of the past and help the country recover from Siad Barre’s dictatorship, a free and fair choice would be the best gift, 50 years later.