President Farmajo (Centre), flanked by former Presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (L) and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed (R) shortly after he is announced winner of the 2017 Presidential Elections
As the national election approaches, the broad consensus is building among Political pundits and analysts alike that Farmajo, like his predecessors, will unlikely win reelection. Conceivably, they point to relative historical precedence. After all, didn't former President Sheikh Sharif lost to Hassan Sheikh and Hassan Sheikh to Farmajo, so will the latter lose to a newcomer, or so they argue with finality. Whom will president Farmajo handover the Villa Somalia keys, they quip provocatively? Further, this group rhetorically ask if Farmajo could lose to Kheyre as Aden Adde lost to his prime minister –Sharmarke-- or any of the former presidents?
The consensus so far reads:
That, no Somali president ever won reelection- precedence,
That, both former president Sheikh Sharif and Hassan Sheikh lost despite having hand-picked Members of Parliament (MP) after investing heavily in influencing their elections and post-election servicing,
That, Somalis have unexplained dislike for incumbents or continuity.
That, Somalis prefer change for change's sake or no sake at all,
That, the burden of incumbency heavily weighs on the incumbent government,
That, past incumbents contested against candidates that included their Prime Ministers set incumbents for loss,
That, four-point five (4.5) formula makes it hard for ambitious MPs of the same quota from supporting the same presidential candidate, especially in the first round. This inevitably forces MPs to support presidential candidates with the fewest MPs from their quota, to improve their chances of cabinet positions or other kinds of leverage over the next government,
That, incumbent government's bus is full from the last/past departure station,
That, as part of the burden of incumbency, the present incumbency is a fixed target which is hard to miss even without aim;
That, the incumbent, in particular, is guilty of acts of commission and omission; stepped on many significant toes whose well-resourced owners are self-propelled to handing them a humiliating defeat at next polls inside the tent at the airport hangar.
Plausible, all of the above, but…
Arguably, no one fails to be re-elected because he or she is an incumbent. While all the above factors appeared to influence the outcome of the past presidential elections where no incumbent secured reelection, these are mere factors that, if contextualized, may apply to President Farmajo to a lesser degree. For example, it's worth to consider that the incumbent conducted politics differently from his predecessors as to render any obvious application of context-deprived precedence, a lazy generalization. Of course, the incumbent can meet a similar fate as his predecessors but not for the same reasons. Therefore, if a loss is inevitable, it will be wrong to associate it with the same old precedency-related reasons.
Away from precedence argument, the expectation of the incumbent to break with precedent in 2021 is somewhat mirrored on how Galmudug MPs acted in the presidential election. If an incumbent's campaign handles new MPs delicately with respect, chances are they reciprocate in kind. Similarly, how the incumbent managed the Hirshabele regional assembly members is a clear manifestation of his reach and influence. It will no doubt guarantee that his candidate will triumph and by default will decide over the election of Senators as well as the members of the lower house of the parliament. In contrast, former incumbents had no such influence in Garowe and Jubaland, Southwest, Galmudug and Hirshabele in their respective reigns. This makes the incumbent the sole proprietor, unlike his predecessors, who had significant shareholders in their political project. For any aspirant MP, the incumbent offers far more attractive with generous dividends than his competitors who are in one mega-shareholding company.
Everyone, including the former incumbent Hassan Sheikh, used the "precedence" card to warn the incumbent that it's an exercise in futility to hand-picking MPs in an attempt to rig the election. Former incumbent Hassan Sheikh is alleged to even got his own "cook" (not correct, though) elected MP but worse the 'MP' still did not vote for him. That he used the most money and he even lost in their context-less claims. What people miss to ask is how the "cook" was treated pre-MP and during the elections? And how was money used and for whom?
It's also worth considering that in past incumbent Hassan Sheikh's case, MPs were six-month in salary arrears. How does one expect to influence a Somali whom you owe a debt? A rule of thumb is you give support to someone when they need most to earn their utmost respect and loyalty. Still, if you provide support after you failed in the first and second instances, apparently because you find yourself in a situation, a Somali will take your help as "extortion.". And, that is what happened to the past incumbents. They withheld support only to let loose, last minute when they were in need. To expect a "cook" whose cooking and cuisine you often criticized or never appreciated to vote for you simply because you made him an MP is to rate yourself as the sharpest fork in the kitchen drawer.
In contrast, under the incumbent's administration, MPs got paid their six-month salary arrears brought forward from the previous administration and 28th of every subsequent month, as was the case for all other public servants. In this case, there could be some serving MPs who might vote for the incumbent only on the strength of guaranteeing them on-time payments of their salaries. People have different value and are motivated by other things. Not everyone is equally grand in their expectations. Worse still, to portray Somali MPs as rogue and unworthy of respect and unable even to differentiate the ones who treat them differently is stretching it too far.
Following the example of the 'cook' that never voted for his former boss, it is inconceivable for the little-known ministers that replaced ministers Islow, Anshur, Maareeye, Warfa, and Fauzia, not to bestow the incumbent the first-round vote. If the incumbent succeeds in getting them elected as MPs for the second time, it is undoubtedly forgone conclusion.
It is the norm that most pre-election contracts end in the first round, mostly if your 'candidate' performs underwhelmingly. For Farmajo to be less than 140-150 in the first round is an insult to Somalis collectively as unappreciative lot. It's in Somalis to generously reciprocate to favour "abaal".
However, the incumbent can lose reelection. It's the reason why elections are held— to lose and win. What this is about, if there was ever a specific way to lose, the incumbent has deliberately taken a different route from the one his predecessors embraced. To use a fitting analogy, the incumbent has avoided all Radio Controlled Improvised Explosive Device (RCIED)-infested tracks to his second-term presidency, in which case if ED'd hoist him, it can't be same RCIED that struck his predecessors. From the untrodden paths the incumbent has taken, it can only be UXOs from #77 or civil war period, if at all.
Except for seats that must be won by all means necessary, the incumbent will try its level best to avoid involving in messy parliamentary elections to minimize fall out from carryover of pre-elections grievances. As a softer and less offensive strategy, the incumbent will put more effort in seats designated as low hanging fruits and as well as seats of prominent loyalists among them.
Since precedents are there to be set and record to be broken, Somalis should brace themselves for something different in 2021, including an election outcome different from the ones they have known. A re-elected incumbent could mean no requirement for appointing a new PM nor new cabinet? Welcome to the new approach to expect from Farmajo,
The incumbent is the only candidate who will have to break Somalia's stubborn precedent of single-term president until he gets defeated in 2021. He acted starkly different from his predecessors. It's only logical to expect a starkly different electoral outcome too. If the incumbent loses, even after acting starkly different from past incumbents, it would only bring Somalia closer to breaking the single-term president precedent- performance legitimacy through purposeful, open dialogue, consensus building and compromise between FGS and FMSs and among all of them. For both current and past incumbents were averse to governance based on inclusivity, cooperative engagements, consensus building and compromise. As such, we will assign blame on "precedent" for the tradition of single-term presidents.
And that is only when an incumbent loses reelection after effectively implementing governance based on performance legitimacy, as a direct harvest from broad-based consultations and consensus-building among the various levels of government.
There are ample examples which illustrate the difference of incumbent from his two incumbent predecessors and for that reason anyone to argue that they would face a similar fate is disingenuous. Based on information on the table below, it can be inferred that, even if the incumbent loses in his reelection bid, it would be erroneous to associate it with the default factors that Somalis have known or blanketly attribute to incumbent's failure to secure reelection. Similar elections outcome for the incumbent does not necessarily mean from similar reasons as his predecessors. Comparatively, the incumbent had been more strategic in very policy decision than his predecessors.