Electoral teams: Somalia PM should not sweep complaints under the carpet
EDITORIAL | Somalia is looking forward to the start of the electoral period in December 2020, which should continue until at least by February next year.
But the very optimism punctuating this period may well turn into chaos. This week, the debate has been on the authenticity of the 25 members of the Indirect Electoral Committee and the 21 Dispute Resolution Committee members; two crucial teams that will be charged with running the elections.
The committees are a result of a deal reached in the capital last September by the Federal government and the Federal Member States on how to administer the elections. But the opposition presidential candidates have raised a storm, arguing the composition of these teams favours President Mohamed Farmaajo because they have among them, spy agents and civil servants.
In a joint statement, the 12 presidential aspirants, including former presidents and PM argued they warned they may boycott an election run by cronies of the President and NISA agents, which they called “robbery and plot for vote-rigging.”
We do not purport to take sides on the issue here, but learning from history, we think complaints about the fairness of the electoral teams must be listened to, even addressed.
The opposition presidential candidates have raised valid points including the fear that appointing officials who have worked with Farmajo could make the team biased. In Somalia, where loyalty matters in politics, what guarantees do we have that the officials will not receive orders from above to skew the electoral process in favour of one candidate?
Granted, an election whose process of result doesn’t satisfy participants could easily lead to problems everyone is trying to avoid: Instability. If the President and his administration are going to stick with Somalia’s tradition of peaceful transitions, at least the appointment of the referee has to be a matter of consensus, not bulldozing.
Our sources have indicated that in the coming days, the group of aspirants will have a meeting in Mogadishu and could escalate their demands, threaten to boycott an election and weaken the legitimacy of whoever wins afterwards.
We have also been told that the Prime Minister may specifically be petitioned by clan the Hawiye, whose elders have also raised some complaints about the composition of the electoral teams.
These are things Somalia can avoid. This country has avoided storms before and there is no need to imagine it cannot ride this one. But as usual, there have to be channels for discussions.
It is possible that when prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble named the teams last week, he was following due procedure.
His cabinet had 25 individuals to sit on the NEC. These are the people who will oversee the election of the 275 MPs and 54 Senators. And for the first time, the CRC, composed of 21 people, will determine disputes arising from the elections.
All this forms the initial phase of implementing the electoral deal reached by the federal state leaders with the federal government. Some have argued that none of the federal leaders in Hirshabelle, Galmudug, Jubaland, South West and Puntland has raised an issue with the listing.
But like any political process; the law alone is never enough to quieten the noises. We do not support the idea that every decision has to make everyone happy, but we must be wise enough to identify landmines when we can. Selecting a team of officials to run the elections when few people outside of the government have confidence in them is risky.
This is why it was unfortunate for the Deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Guled to dismiss the complaints as baseless. His argument that the was no difference in current procedure from one in 2016 does not address the opposition fears that spies will look into their contests.t
It may be true that civil servants have always formed part of these teams and often conducted elections. But bias is something no one should ignore.
The polls ahead must be planned in an improved environment; clans will choose delegates, but in conjunction with these teams, which means their influence on who actually turns out to vote will be crucial.
The Prime Minister may argue that the law has been followed. And certainly, the electoral calendar has been endorsed by the crucial arms of government. But that doesn’t mean it means political satisfaction.