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United Nations welcomes new Somalia poll plan

Wednesday December 14, 2016

The United Nations on Friday welcomed Somalia’s latest rescheduling of an election that was initially set for August and subsequently postponed three times.

The strife-ridden country’s leaders said on Thursday that parliamentary elections must be completed by December 22, with MPs then choosing a president by December 28.

A UN statement in response to questions from The EastAfrican expressed understanding for the repeated delays in concluding an election involving only a tiny fraction of Somalia’s population.

“There was always a possibility of some slippages in the timelines of the electoral process, given that this unprecedented and unique electoral model has faced some daunting logistical and technical challenges in a country that is emerging from a quarter-century of armed conflict,” said Joseph Contreras, spokesman for the UN Mission in Somalia.

“One of the many positive aspects of the 2016 electoral process,” Mr Contreras said, “is al-Shabaab’s failure until now to disrupt the selection of electoral college delegates and the election of parliamentary candidates with a major attack on a polling site.”

The Mogadishu-based spokesman attributed the safeguarding of the polls to “close co-operation between Somali security forces and the military and police contingents of the African Union Mission in Somalia, with support from international partners.”

While the Islamist insurgents have so far been unable to make good their threats of disruption, the protracted electoral process has been marred by numerous allegations of corruption and intimidation.

The credibility of the results will ultimately hinge on the effectiveness of the country’s Independent Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanism, Mr Contreras said.

This body is responsible for investigating complaints of vote fraud and for resolving disputes. The mechanism has the ability to “take appropriate action in the worst instances of electoral abuse and malpractice,” the UN spokesman added.
Render a verdict

“The United Nations is not playing an international observer role in this process, nor can it speak for the people of Somalia,” Mr Contreras said. “Only they can render a verdict on the freeness and fairness of the process and the legitimacy of its outcomes.”

But only a small number of the country’s 12 million people are playing a direct role in the elections.

The vote has been organised on the basis of 135 clan elders choosing 14,025 delegates who take part in electoral colleges. These delegates then vote for each of the 275 seats in parliament’s lower house that will be distributed in accordance with a power-sharing formula among clans. Seats in the 54-member upper house have been distributed by region.

Under this arrangement, members of both houses will cast ballots for the country’s president.
Somalia’s political leaders decided last year that a plan for broadly democratic elections would not be implemented due to widespread insecurity and the absence of a reliable voter roll.


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