By Abdirahman Omar Osman
01 August 2016
Ahead of the eve of the
Somali Leaders Forum (SLF) meeting in Mogadishu, there are positive signs as
Somalia prepares elections in the next few months. There is a consensus among
all Federal Institutions (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary) and Somali
Regional leaders that there will be no extension once the term of the current
government ends in September 2016.
They also agree that the
indirect election should be one that has more legitimacy, representative and
inclusive compared to the 2012 elections where only 135 elders chose the 275
time 51 constituency members will elect each MP, which means 14025 citizens
will take part the indirect elections. If this goes according to the plan,
there is hope that the country will hold its first fair and free one-person one
vote elections by 2020.
This paper examines the 2016
electoral system, discusses the prevailing challenges and to provide options on
the way forward.
In September 2012 President
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was elected as the first President of a Permanent Federal
Government following the end of Transitional Governments since 2000.
The mandate of the
Government was similar to all previous governments, which was to review the
constitution and hold a referendum, implement Federal system and to hold a fair
and free one person one vote elections.
Just like the previous
governments, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had it unique challenges, mostly
related to security and lack of resources to fulfill its mandate.
But each successive government
have taken steps that led to the overall improvements of many sectors in the
country despite the security challenges as Al-Shabaab changed their tactics to
an asymmetric warfare that caused too many civilian casualties. One of the reason was that
the improvement of security institutions reduced attacks to government
buildings and that is why we have seen a rise on attacks in public places like
hotels, restaurants and populated areas on main streets, such as Liido Seafood
Thanks to the leaders of the
current government, compared to 2012, the 2016 electoral system has witnessed
improvements because it is Somali-owned and Somali-led process. We have seen
Somali Leaders Forum meeting regularly without international partners present,
all of meetings took place inside Somalia compared to 2012 elections, where
political infighting used to solve neighboring capitals.
What is more evident is that
there is a consensus of holding elections and making sure that there is no
option for an extension. There is also a consensus to hold a transparent and
more legitimate elections compared to 2012.
The plan is for Traditional
Elders to choose 51 constituency members that will elect each MP. Election
Commission has been appointed and Federal Government leaders and Federal Member
States have chosen their members.
In addition, 22 members of
the Election Commission has democratically elected their Chairperson and
Deputies that will lead the process to ensure that elections are transparent
and will take place in time. They will come up with their plan of action with
Somali Leaders Forum (SLF)
is set to meet tomorrow the 2nd of August 2016 to finalise the
timetable of the election taking into account proposals from the Election
Commission. This meeting is very important and the people and our international
partners are watching keenly. SLF meeting will address the completion of all
tasks relating to the upcoming indirect elections, including the establishment
of the dispute commission, the status of Mogadishu, the regional election
commission composition, ensuring women get their 30% allocated quota and other
issues such as Somali National Security Policy and its implementation.
The question is whether SLF
will meet the higher expectations and aspirations of the people—which is to
hold a fair and free elections in time. It will determine whether the country
will move a step forward and hold one-person one vote in 2020.
The main challenges are
security and resources. Any plan without adequate resources and safe and secure
environment is bound to fail.
It is expected that the new
Election Commission will submit a budget proposal to the SLF during the meeting
of 2nd of August. There are already discrepancies of the required
resources. SLF during their last meeting in Baidoa submitted a budget for
the elections, but the international partners who are expected to underwrite
the elections raised concern that the requested budget is too high.
is not also clear whether the International partners will be able to cover all
these expenses for the elections, as they are now talking on ways to generate
resources by requesting candidates of MPs to pay around 5,000 US dollar to
cover elections expenses.
For example if there are 5
candidates for every constituency, we are looking at a situation of 1375
candidates, which brings a total of $6,875,000 (six million eight hundred
seventy five thousands). Even though this is a good way of raising resources,
it is impossible to implement it for various reasons. One, it will limit the
elections to only those who can afford it, at the same time encourages
corruption. Many candidates with good programmes but less resources will be
The best option in such a
scenario is for every selected MP to contribute to his or her first three
months’ salary of 3,000 USD towards the electoral process. In other words,
international partners giving loans to the process so that the new parliament
will repay them as loans.
The task of transporting
over 14,000 people from all regions of Somalia and accommodating them in various
districts in the country will be costly. The security of these electors will
also have resource implications
Candidates for MPs and the
presidency will need a safe and secure environment to exercise democratic
practices including freedom of movement, holding events, lobbying within
constituency and safety for their own during this critical time.
There is an understanding
that AMISOM and Somali Security forces will ensure the security of cities
during election. It is easier for security forces to provide security in
general, but it will be difficult to ensure the safety of everyone including
constituency members that are electing MPs (14025) and candidates of MP seats
(1375) as well as presidential candidates. Al-Shabaab has already threatened to
people taking part the electoral process and warned them not to take part.
Furthermore, there are strong signs that they are considering changing this
threat and forcing Traditional leaders to choose constituency members from
Al-Shabaab so that they can become MPs. This is a serious issues that need to
be addressed immediately.
Security will not only be
the responsibility of the government institutions, but every citizen as the
legitimacy of the election process is for the interest of all. Since security
institutions of regions will be responsible for the overall safety of other
cities, they lack proper training and capacity.
Other challenges include the
fair and free selection of the 51 constituency members. It is impossible to
gather a huge number of constituency members in one place. For example, MPs
from Somaliland and areas where Al-Shabaab are in control will not be able to
take part the election process. So they will have to come to Mogadishu, which
is hard to bring those genuine constituency members.
Another challenge is that
there will be attempts to influences and manipulation from Federal Member
States as elections will take place in their capitals and their leaders will
have the final signature. Furthermore, there is a plan to also have regional
election commissions but it is still not clear how they will work with the
National Election Commission.
In order to ensure that the
upcoming election is fair, free and more legitimate, there should be more
representation and a feeling of inclusivity.
While there is a consensus
on having an enhanced and more legitimate elections compared to 2012, it still
remains an ambitious plan. Some people argue that since the ultimate goal is to
hold fair and free elections on one person one vote by 2020, why not continue
with the same process of 2012 which is specific, measurable, achievable, and
realistic and can be implemented within the short time before the mandate of
the current government ends in September.
Therefore, if there is no
guarantee on security and resources needed as time is running out, SLF and
International partners need to urgently review of what is at stake.
Even if the required
resources is available, there is a high probability that the remaining
time is not sufficient to implement the 2016 electoral system. The following
recommendations worth considering during the SLF meeting on 2nd of August.
1. If and only if there is
guarantee of security and resources with proper plan of ensuring inclusivity,
representation and genuine process, it will need at least six months to
implement it. Beginning August, the more realistic time to hold elections
is end of January or early February 2017.
2. If there is insecurity
and no resources guarantee, then the best option is to implement the 2012
model, where 135 Traditional Elders will select the 275 MPs. This way, there is
guarantee to hold the indirect elections, and it gives more chances for women
MPs than the grand and ambitious 2016 electoral process. It will mean no
Somali leader will have influence or manipulate the process, as the Traditional
Leaders will have the final say on who will represent their respective clan.
3. The best option would be
to consider one-year extension of the current institutions with a strict
roadmap and timetable to ensure that the grand and ambitious plan is
implemented in time. This will give the government and the international
partners time to raise the required resources and ensure an environment that is
conducive to hold elections.
I might not have tackled all
the challenges but my objective is to generate debate on the challenges facing
the electoral system in order to find a suitable option for the country.
Since time is too short, we must come up with a plan that is acceptable to all,
and gain the confidence of citizens.
MrAbdirahman Omar Osman (Eng. Yarisow) is a former Minister
of Treasury, former Minister of Information, and former Senior Advisor and
Spokesperson to the President and the Prime Minister of Somalia. Worked 10
years in UK local government as Area Housing Manager. [email protected]