Deciphering Somalia’s Ongoing Election Dilemma: A Call for a Pragmatic Evaluation

On June 8, 2023, I had the honor to visit Villa Somalia for a discussion with President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud about crucial national matters. This followed the National Consultative Council’s controversial decision regarding the electoral future of Somalia. This decision, which received backlash, proposed extending the terms of the Federal Member States, switching to a presidential system, eliminating the Prime Minister’s position, restricting national political parties to two, and putting forward a single election management body for all polls in the country. Additionally, it suggested conducting One-Person, One-Vote local council elections by June 2024.

Noticing the negative reaction, the Presidency organized this meeting with intellectuals to gather various opinions, including mine. I highlighted the challenges of implementing the proposed agreement, emphasizing issues such as the ambitious timeline for local council elections and potential extensions of Federal Member States’ terms.

Moreover, I pointed out concerns about limiting the number of political parties and changing the governmental system, arguing that maintaining a balance of power is crucial. The President responded by defending the feasibility of the proposed timeline for local elections, rejecting concerns about the removal of the Prime Minister, and defending the limitations on political parties to two.

Over a year later, progress on the elections has been slow. Challenges remain, including the lack of an election management body, limited buy-in from key stakeholders, and technical difficulties. The prospects for a direct election in 2026 are uncertain due to ongoing disagreements and political crises.

To prevent a predictable crisis, efforts should focus on securing broad consensus on election rules, acknowledging the challenges of conducting multiple elections simultaneously, and considering separate timelines for Federal Member States and the Federal Government.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud faces tough decisions ahead, with little time left in his term. The success of the electoral process and the future stability of Somalia depend on his ability to navigate these challenges effectively and garner support from all stakeholders.

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