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Past Parliamentary Elections in Somalia: 1956 -1969

by Mohamed I. Trunji
Sunday, September 1, 2019

This is the first of a series of articles on past political elections held in Somalia between 1956 and 1969. The next article will look into the 1959 elections, the second held in the country.

Part Two

In part one of the series of articles on past political elections in Somalia, (vide Hiiraan Online of August 19, 2019), we dealt with the 1956 parliamentary elections, the first in the country.

In part two, an attempt is being made to give an insight into the changed circumstances of the political landscape of the territory under which the second parliamentary elections were held in 1959, less than two years before the total independence.

By Electoral Law N. 26 of 26 December 1958, the second Parliamentary elections were held in March 1959 for a period of five years. The new electoral law was passed without the crucial issues of population census, revision of electoral boundaries being resolved. However the new law contained import innovations in comparison to the 1956 parliamentary elections. Firstly the right to vote was extended to adult female. Secondly, the indirect voting system (through the electoral representatives for the nomadic population) was abolished and every elector urban or rural was casting his/her vote directly without electoral certificate. In place of electoral certificate, the government has introduced the system of marking the hands of the voters with indelible ink: this was meant to discourage voters by casting their votes on more than one occasion. But the ink proved easy enough to erase with lemon and soda. Thirdly, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 years.

The country was divided in 30 electoral districts with the creation of the five new districts of Alula, Iskushuban,  Balad, Wanle Weyn and Jelib. Out of the 30 constituencies, nationwide, 19 had only registered the SYL list of candidates (Lista Unica). In areas where only one list was registered, the Minister of Interior was empowered to enact provision in order to prevent voters from one area going to vote in other areas. On the face of it, that sounded reassuring, however, these provisions were defined in a loose way as to render them almost meaningless. In fact, as feared, massive number of voters moved from the district where only one list was presented and even from beyond the international border line to districts where elections were taking place.

The number of parliamentary seats to be contested for was raised from 60 to 90, distributed before the elections on a regional base: Migiurtinia 13; Mudugh 12; Hiran 12; Benadir 18, Alto Juba 22 and Basso Juba 12.

The United Nations and the Italian authorities (Afis) were both of the opinion that the seats should be distributed after the result of the elections was known. Similarly, the increase of the number of deputies from 60 to 90, considered excessive, raised criticism from different quarters, including the United Nations Advisory Council in Mogadiscio in addition to the Administering Authority. It was argued that such high number of Parliamentarians would substantially burden the territory’s future budget. However, some MPs, although recognizing that this number was high, for a country like Somalia, maintained that this would have the effect of reducing the defects of the unicameral system. The law required that the list of candidates be signed by no less than two-hundred voters and accompanied by a deposit of ShSo 1,000 for each list.

In the run up to the elections, the ruling party felt that it was facing strong challenge from the opposition as it was rumored that opposition parties were being subsidized by foreign Consulates based in Mogadiscio. In order to counter any influence, real or fictional, from foreign agents in the internal affairs of the territory, a motions was introduced to the Parliament by on December 15, 1958, by a group of MPs from the ruling party calling the government to take steps and ask the foreign community to “observe scrupulously the principles of hospitality and non-interference” At the time, Britain, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, United States of America and Yemen were represented by Consulate. Although no country was named, it was generally thought that the motion was directed to the Egyptian Consulate for allegedly supporting the Greater Somalia League (GSL), and the Ethiopian Consulate for allegedly supporting the Hisbiya Dghil Mirifle (HDM) and Partito Liberale Giovani Somali (PLGS). At the same time the government has made the Assembly pass an emergency law giving the police sweeping power in dealing with security matters including the power to detain individuals suspected of undermining security for a minimum of one year without being charged. The draft law was rejected by the Administrator, so it did not become a law because of its antidemocratic nature.


Il Patto del Diavolo (The Devil’s Pact)

Abolition of political parties with tribal denominations


By legislation passed by the Legislative Assembly in 1958, it was made illegal for political parties to bear tribal denominations. The HDM found an ingenuous way to circumvent the prohibition by changing their name in “Hisbia Destour Mutaqil Somali” (HDMS) while preserving the acronym HDM and its tribal affiliation

An-anti SYL coalition of four parties (HDMS, GSL PLGS and SANU) worried about the proposed electoral law would lead them to the mercy of the government was formed. This new group was soon to be dubbed by its critics as “Patto del Diavolo”. A joint manifest of the four parties was published requesting the putting in place of a mechanism necessary to ensure free and fair elections. Within the Assembly the opposition objected also to two main points of the draft electoral law, namely the proposed five-year term of the of the new Assembly, and the assignment of seats to the districts before the elections in the absence of definite figure of the number of  actual voters in each district. However, what most worried the opposition was the role of the police and local authorities hired by the government as obstacle to the opposition. The opposition voiced strong concern about the general situation of intimidation which, in their view, was not conducive to free and faire elections

Haji Mohamed, the leader of the Greater Somalia League, was arrested in Migiurtinia while touring there to open some new branches in the region and charged with “incitement to rebellion”, under the new emergency law.

In Hiran, the regional Governor (Prefect) is reported to have issued ordinance banning the opening of the Greater Somali League branch in Belet Uen and, when a branch was opened despite the ban, he ordered the demolition of the small thatched house rented by the GSL party as office.


Sheikh Issa Mohamed v. Ahmed Dahir Hassan


On the basis of the enlarged Legislative Assembly, Mogadiscio was assigned an additional seat. However, there was no consensus among the SYL Central Committee over the selection of the candidate for the second seat. Two candidates were considered: one was the veteran SYL Central Committee Member, Sheikh Issa Mohamed, native of Mogadiscio; the second was Ahmed Dahir Hassan, of ethnic Darod. After protracted discussions, the choice fell eventually on the latter. However, he failed to be elected and the two Mogadiscio seats were taken by two candidates, who, although associated with different political parties, belonged to the same Abgal clan family: Haji Mohamoud Borracco (Partito Liberale) and Mohamed Gabio (SYL).   

The elections were boycotted by a faction within the Hisbia party while other faction within the party, led by Abdulkadir “Zoppo” presented list of candidates in the constituencies of Baidoa, Bur Hakaba, Merca, Brava and Jelib. The results of the elections were a victory for the ruling Somali Youth League, which won 83 of the 90 seats in the enlarged Legislative Council. Five seats went to the HDMS and two to the Partito Liberale.

When the new Assembly held its session on May 26, Aden Abdulla was elected, for the second time, President of the Legislative Assembly. Abdulkadir Mohamed Aden “Zoppo” (HDMS) and Haji Bashir Ismail (SYL) were elected Vice Presidents. The clan composition of the Bureau of the Legislative Assembly, between the Hawie, Rahanweyn and the Darod is obvious to fail to be noticed.


The invalidation of the electoral result of Lugh Ferrandi

Murder of Councilor Moallim Omar Maio


As mentioned earlier, the election results were the product of a systematic and widespread fraud perpetrated by the officials in charge of the polling stations particularly those in the up-county. The opposition, as expected, cried foul asking the Court to annul the results of a number of constituencies, including Lugh Ferrandi (Alto Juba). Following judicial recourse lodged by the Hisbi Destour Mustaqil Somali (HDMS), the electoral results for Lugh Ferrandi were invalidated by the regional Court of Baidoa on grounds of irregularities. Prior to the judicial revision of the results, the two seats were allocated to the SYL party. represented by two MPs hailing from the Darod clan family. Many were caught by surprise that only the election of Lugh was put into question and annulled notwithstanding the fact that votes throughout the Territory were believed to be rigged and irregularities committed and denounced. The invalidation of the Lugh election had rekindled old grudges and animosity, leading to accusations that the government was biased against the Darod clan families. Meanwhile, Darod businessmen, associated with the SYL party, unleashed a campaign of propaganda to claim the two seats of Lugh Ferrandi not in the name of the party but on behalf of their clan.

A by-election held in Lugh Ferrandi’s constituency later in the year, resulted in crashing defeat of the ruling party and in the victory of the opposition parties: HDMS and PLGS. Sadly however, in less than two weeks before the by-election, in an already charged political atmosphere, the HDMS candidate, Moallim Omar Maio was stabbed to death in Lugh Ferrandi on January 5, 1960. The incident sparked off a wave of condemnation across the country, and the Parliament adopted a unanimous and strongly worded resolution deploring the assassination of the former Councilor and calling the government to bring the perpetrators to justice. (Corriere della Somalia, Gennaio 27, 1960). A 34-year old without fixed abode, Farah Hassan Mohamed was arrested in connection with the criminal act.

M. Trunji

E-mail: [email protected]


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