Puntland’s Perplexing Dilemma: Negotiations Needed ASAP!

On the 18th of May in the year 2023, an array of perplexing events unfolded, the persistence of which may culminate in unfavorable outcomes. The Puntland Political Forum, consisting of both national and international politicians, released a statement on the 15th of May, which implored President Said Abdulahi Deni of Puntland to partake in negotiations regarding the election process. The forum warned President Deni and his team that they would be held accountable for any negative repercussions that may arise from an election process lacking in stakeholder consensus. Remarkably, soon after this, reports surfaced concerning two militias of the Puntland forces that clashed near the airport, preventing one group from transporting election equipment. Subsequently, the Attorney General issued arrest warrants for four politicians alleged to have incited the conflict. One such politician, Hassan Shire Abdi, gave an interview in Garowe where he accused President Deni of instigating the conflict that occurred the previous day. Abdi also claimed that the Attorney General lacked the authority to make arrests, citing the rejection of the Attorney General’s appointment in parliament, not once but twice. Furthermore, he accused the Attorney General of being affiliated with the same clan as the President, which he suggested is fostering a culture of loyalty towards the President among his people. For the Puntlanders, none of these allegations will produce the desired results. They yearn for a clear election process founded on the principles of one person, one vote, wherein they can deliberate at length whom they will cast their votes for and their respective manifestos.

It is critical to focus on the election process itself, to reach a consensus on the election process’s timeline, which all stakeholders can swallow. When the election process recommenced in the middle of the previous year, there was little time to complete it properly, impartially, and receive input from everyone. Only three districts had commenced the enrollment procedure when the registration process began, with registration taking place in the city of Bosaso in January of this year for only a few weeks. The government stated that about 80,000 people had registered, despite the city’s population being over 1.5 million. With the registration team relocating to the next town, there are questions as to how a government that cannot handle voter registration concurrently in two or three districts can undertake the actual voting from Bosaso to Kalkacyo in a single day. Although the youth hired for voter registration were unpaid, six out of ten of the youth originally hired returned to work voluntarily, knowing that they might not be paid. They were told that the international community had promised to finance the election, so the Puntland population had to cover the costs of the election, and they would get paid later. Unfortunately, a third of the voter cards were not distributed because viewers left rural areas without picking up their voter cards.

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Registered voters are puzzled about the qualifications or experiences of individual candidates, as voters vote for a political party, not individual candidates. If a party wins enough votes for two seats, the first two individuals on the party list receive those seats. Problems may arise if certain people thought they had voted for, say, the third-ranked person on the party list, but the party did not win three seats, leaving those voters disgruntled because they did not understand the system.

Campaign opportunities for political parties were far from fair, with many people wondering why political parties agreed to participate in an election with no level playing field. The Kaah party dominates, including the president, his vice president, the chairman of the parliament, most of the ministers, and parliamentarians. Government employees campaigning for their party during the voter registration while using government resources is despicable. Only parties with access to the government resources, which are only two parties, Kaah and Mideye, were able to campaign successfully, while other campaigns were not victorious. This arrangement is akin to a race between two people, with one given a two-mile head start in a five-mile race; the chances of success for the other person starting two miles behind the competition are close to zero unless a miracle happens.

In conclusion, President Deni must consider the above points and come to the negotiation table with all stakeholders to implement a process that all parties will find fair. Puntland needs a system resting on the principle of one person, one vote before it conducts an election. If President Deni persists with the current type of election process, he shoulders the blame for any adverse outcome. The president needs to make his policies known to all stakeholders and the general public before the council elections take place. All opposition parties should come together to negotiate the election process for fair, credible election results that reflect the moral high ground required for everyone to rule. Without an agreement on the election process, it is inconceivable that one person will dictate the agenda, eventually leading to catastrophe.

Mohamed Abdiqafar Haji Hussein

Atlanta, Georgia

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