MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia will now go to the polls starting in November this year, a section of senior stakeholders said on Thursday, weeks after a series of meetings in Dhusamareb and Mogadishu, mediated by members of the international community and local actors, amid simmering political tensions.
Initially, deep suspicions among the political elites had literally stopped the dialogue, with federal states and the opposition accusing President Farmajo of devising a strategy to extend his term after approving the general election polls held by the National Independent Electoral Commission. [NIEC] had designated as “unsustainable” within this year.
And subsequent meetings at Dhusamareb also revealed deep divisions within the Horn of Africa after Jubaland President Ahmed Islam Mohamed Madobe and his Puntland counterpart Said Abdullahi Deni refused to attend the final conference, further diminishing hopes of a long-term solution.
But in Mogadishu on Thursday, five federal heads of state, Mogadishu mayor Omar Filish and Farmajo, signed a historic agreement that effectively resolves the pre-election crisis if approved by parliament. The agreement reintroduced an improved clan-based model that ended speculation as to whether the country will hold early polls as expected.
Inside the agreement, the team agreed to appoint the federal election commission that will work with another team from the member states. The decision precludes NIEC’s participation in the indirect voting, in contrast to the original Dhusamareb agreement, which seemed to incorporate the team into the electoral systems.
Constituencies are designated in two cities in federal states, the agreement reads, adding that the number of delegates who will vote for each member of parliament will be 101, representing the community that shares the seat of parliament. This is a reduction from 301 agreed at the Dhusamareb III conference.
Elections will be decided by traditional elders in cooperation with civil society and member states, where women will be given at least 30 percent seats to increase the affirmative action. It is not clear whether this process will slow down the infiltration of al-Shabaab in parliament after reports that the group had compromised a section elder.
For senators, stakeholders said, regional parliaments will elect the representatives who represent their interests in Mogadishu. Senate members [Upper House] and the lower house of secessionist Somaliland will be elected by a joint delegation in Mogadishu, the agreement noted.
Somaliland runs a separate functional government and has been pushing for international recognition for three decades since claiming independence in 1991. The region has intensified its search for citizenship in recent months by signing cooperation with a number of other states, including Taiwan, a region claimed by China.
The agreement also stipulates that elections will be held from November 2020, when the current parliamentary term expires, to February 2021, when the presidential elections are expected to be held. This effectively ends speculation about term expansions as previously noted by critics.
Both sides agreed to work together on security issues, which have traditionally destabilized the nation due to persistent al-Shabaab attacks, adding that improved security would guarantee a credible electoral process. Al-Shabaab has been hardening the country for the past 13 years.
Management further stressed the need for freedom of expression, including but not limited to allowing journalists to carry out their work without intimidation. In recent months, journalists have been subjected to harassment, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and detentions that have caused international anger and condemnation.
Management praised Galmadug for having initial talks in addition to praising Farmajo for his commitment to mediate the deal. Also recognized were the international actors whose input was clearly given at meetings constructed by the United States and the European Union before the agreement was signed.
Abdinur Mohamed, the new deputy chief of staff at Villa Somalia, said: “Today’s landmark election agreement is a milestone that we are all proud of. The Mogadishu moment best describes Samareeb’s success.” The new model will be known as the constituency.
However, Abdirashid Hashi, director of the Heritage Institute of Policy Studies, a Mogadishu-based think tank, believes the deal is a bit vague given that a number of issues are not addressed, including how elders and other stakeholders will choose 101 voters.
“Other vague aspects of the political agreement reached by the federal president and regional leaders include: How exactly do elders, regional governments and civil society elect 101 voters? What will be the exact roles of the federal election commission and regional electoral bodies?” he wonders.
“Political parties are thrown out the window despite having talked about it for years. If it is rejected again, a reason should have been given. Earlier, some residents of Mogadishu say they want 13 senators, this issue seems to to be discarded, but it is not mentioned, ”he adds.
Immediate former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, who helped start the negotiations, called the result a “relief” for Somalis and called for “two-partisan” support from other stakeholders. Khaire, who has declared a presidential candidate, added that the deal is “fair to our people”.
For Abdimalik Abdullahi, another political analyst on Horn of Africa affairs, the deal was necessary as one-person-one-vote elections had proved a useless exercise. The agreement, he adds, would pave the way for timely elections as planned in Somalia’s interim constitution.
“Direct elections were clearly impossible. Greetings for lack of commitment and political goodwill. The most important thing now is that a timely election be held to maintain the tradition of peaceful political transition (something Somalia desperately needs, as history reminds us every time ), ”He remarked.