EDITORIAL | The first two weeks of July have been an eventful mass of political activities in Somalia. But the public is not yet aware of a solution to an ongoing problem: the kind of elections the country will hold before the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.
This week, federal state presidents have gathered in Dhusamareb, the capital of the state of Galmudug. The agenda was to strengthen their voice on the national political stage and push for a common position on elections and other important issues.
After the first phase of their meeting, the leaders called for “pragmatism” in the organization of the election. They called for a reality check, first that Somalia would be naive to think it could run a one-person-vote election in four months. The leaders of Puntland, Jubaland, Hirshabelle, South West and Galmudug also requested that an indirect election be held on time without the need to extend the established terms of office.
This view received support from various opposition groups and the Upper House (Senate). Opposition Forum for National Parties [FNP] agreed with the call, but said the discussions should be extended to all other stakeholders in the country.
Yet with support and growing understanding that Somalia is not ready for direct elections; the exact choice of model is still controversial. This week, the public may have been urged to watch Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire travel to Dhusamareb and attend the meeting in federal states.
Mr. Khaire, who has promised an election in time and who warns that any delay could cause political crises, has given a national appeal to a meeting that critics had accused was a political lobby of personal interests.
Now that we have moved from the stage of personal political interests, it means that the Dhusamareb Conference could be a good platform to provide a national solution to this election model problem.
On Thursday night, it was not clear whether President Farmaajo traveled to Galmudug or organized to meet federal heads of state in Mogadishu at a later date.
Whichever way it goes; we urge the president to publish an opinion on the election model. The President has already, like the Prime Minister, promised to ensure that elections are free and fair, inclusive and timely. Still, the model in these previous posts has been missing.
Somalia faces crossroads in front of it. The Dhusamareb meeting could provide a national solution, especially when the Prime Minister agreed to talk to the leaders there. But it could end up being another talking store that breeds political greatness that is dangerous to the country.
In all this chaotic situation, President Farmaajo was able to calm the waters by making a proposal: a proposal on the type of election to be held, which could then create debate. The president suggests that the model can also continue to galvanize lawmakers to follow up on his proposal. As the country’s leader, he probably has some sort of influence in every corner that is helpful in creating good offices.
Therefore, we are encouraged by reports from dozens of legislators who turn to him to comment on the matter. A presidential election on a model can help persuade lawmakers to adopt necessary legal regimes to support it. It may also mean that he is ready to authorize the money to run that type of election.
It is good to learn that neither opposition groups nor the federal government in Somalia are willing to postpone the election, at least by taking the verbal promises. But it is another thing to actually work on the promises and ensure that polls happen on time.
Most Somalis are actually tired of the controversial 4.5 election model that favored the size of clans relative to the actual profits of candidates. In the past, it was the most feasible model, and many people supported it.
But it has not addressed the concerns of minority clans. Nor did it address the position of women and vulnerable members of society. Clan elders simply prevailed.
This week, House Speaker Mursal Abdirahman said there would be no indirect elections, saying only parliament has the power to decide. Coming up with connotations of delaying the vote, his claims have been fought by opposition groups.
While the parliament may have certain powers to change the electoral law, the situation in Somalia currently requires a political solution, such as a presidential proposal.
The election model cannot be rocket science, and the election the country adopts will not be completely foolproof. But it can be reassuring if the proposal is agreed by stakeholders and cemented in law.
The president can start the process by providing the process with political goodwill.