OP-ED: Evaluating the Controversial Candidacy of Hon. Marwa Bashir in the IPU Elections and Its Impact on Somali Politics


If you’ve been following Somali social media, you may have noticed the polarizing opinions about Hon. Marwa, a member of the Somali Parliament. Her unconventional attempt to secure a leadership position within the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has not only sparked curiosity but has also caused a deep divide in public sentiment, with some expressing strong reservations about her actions. This non-traditional approach has certainly set her apart from the usual norms and diplomatic procedures that typically govern such endeavors.

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) is an international organization consisting of national parliaments, serving as a platform for parliamentary cooperation, discussions on global issues, and the promotion of democracy. Similar to other parliamentary bodies Somalia is a part of, like the Arab, African, and OIC Parliaments, the IPU includes member countries, each represented by their national parliament. Participation in the IPU is primarily based on national agendas and priorities rather than personal motivations or ambitions.

While Hon. Marwa’s decision to run for a leadership position in the IPU is not inherently problematic, the way she pursued her candidacy and the circumstances surrounding it have raised concerns. Her declaration of an independent candidacy, soliciting personal financial contributions from fellow MPs, deviates from established parliamentary election procedures and customary diplomatic norms.

The IPU is an organization where consensus, cooperation, and diplomacy play crucial roles in decision-making processes. This entails representatives from national parliaments coming together to discuss global issues and reach agreements. National interests are of utmost importance in these discussions, and the cooperation of a country’s parliamentary members is vital to advance its agenda within the IPU.

Generally, for an individual to stand as a candidate in a leadership election within the IPU, it is expected that the decision is aligned with the national government and parliament’s strategy. Additionally, financial elements are not typically involved in such campaigns. When necessary, financial support for the campaign and required travel expenses are traditionally provided by the state or relevant institutions. Hon. Marwa’s independent approach, her appeal for crowdfunding through deductions from MPs’ salaries, and the questionable timing of her candidacy do not adhere to the standard procedure for IPU elections or any procedure for that matter.

Furthermore, her candidacy came after the Somali government had already expressed its support for another candidate, a Tanzanian representative. This support, naturally conveyed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, emphasized the national agenda and the interests of Somalia.

Initially, Speaker Madobe supported Hon. Marwa’s bid but seems to have reassessed his position, indicating a significant shift in support within the Somali parliamentary delegation. While his initial support and the timing of his reversal can be debated, it is evident that both occurred months after the Government’s endorsement of the Tanzanian candidate.

The lack of clarity and coordinated communication within the legislative and executive branches is apparent and has resulted in regrettable confusion. This situation is especially perplexing considering that Somalia has two foreign affairs committees, one in each house of parliament, and nearly half of its cabinet members are also MPs. The absence of clear and coordinated communication within these bureaucratic bodies has added to the confusion surrounding the IPU election.

So, what happened today? Hon. Marwa’s bid for IPU leadership ended in defeat at the hands of Tulia Ackson, a longstanding IPU member, lawyer, and Tanzanian MP. Tulia Ackson brings with her an impressive IPU track record, having served as the former Tanzania National Parliament Speaker, former Deputy Doesjer, and former Attorney General of the country. The circumstances leading to this outcome are far from ordinary. Hon. Marwa’s independent candidacy and her competition against a highly experienced opponent, who received endorsements from her own country and others, including Somalia, may explain the results. However, the intricacies of such elections often revolve around closed-door decisions made within respective capitals before the official voting.

Even if votes were cast spontaneously after hearing the candidates’ speeches, anyone who witnessed Hon. Marwa’s selection and the diverse range of reactions from the member audiences can attest to an atmosphere filled with confusion and discomfort.

In conclusion, IPU elections are closely intertwined with a nation’s foreign policy, national goals, and diplomatic norms. While it is commendable for individuals to aspire to global leadership roles, such aspirations should align with the nation’s strategy and collaborative efforts. Hon. Marwa’s unique approach, combined with limited support from her parliamentary team, raises doubts about her respect for diplomatic standards and her dedication to her nation’s global objectives. In this scenario, personal goals seemed to overshadow her role as a stateswoman, potentially leading to a disappointing outcome for many.

By Mohamed Haji
Email: mohaji.ahmed@gmail.com