Few Somalis would want elections delayed, so why can’t leaders work towards that?
EDITORIAL | The assertions by Somali Prime Minister Hassan Khaire that elections must be held on time to avoid future security and constitutional crises are welcome.
Mr. Khaire’s comments after meeting with his Cabinet in Mogadishu signals that the federal government of Somalia is indeed focused on having elections conducted in time as scheduled.
Somalia had scheduled elections for legislators before the end of this year, to replace MPs whose term ends at the end of October. The country was expected to elect a federal president before the end of February. All these have been uncertain as to the clock ticks.
But in a span of one month, both Khaire and President Mohamed Farmaajo have told the public that elections will be on time and as representative as possible. Both pledges are welcome. The missing point, however, is which model will be held this time, in time.
This week, one expected meeting between Farmaajo and federal member states failed to take place. From the look of things, there was a huge gap of trust between stakeholders, ruining any chances of a meeting that would have attempted to answer this question.
What we were left with was a conference of federal member state presidents. By the time of going to press, there was no dispatch on a declaration issued by the federal state leaders yet. All expectations were that there could be some sort of consensus, given the public show of camaraderie among the regional leaders as they touched down in Dhusamareb, Galmudug state.
Those types of meetings, as we have indicated in the past on this platform, are useful as they could break the ice on communication channels. As it is, Somalia doesn’t have time. The National Independent Electoral Commission recently shocked the public by admitting it neither had the time nor the money nor the legal regime to conduct elections.
Chairperson Halima Ismail pleaded for 13 more months and asked that electoral laws be passed as fast. The Commission has proposed a budget of $53 million to run elections.
Still, there is no consensus on whether the Commission can pull off a good quality election if these needs are given. This brings us to the question of whether an election delay is necessary.
Some experts have cautiously observed that a proper election is sensible in two years, saying the extension needed by NIEC will still be insufficient. And miffed at the suggestion to delay polls, opposition leaders and federal state presidents, especially Puntland and Jubaland, have warned a delay will be unacceptable.
In short, most stakeholders if not all, agree that delayed elections would be bad for the country. They also agree that elections held within scheduled time will require consensus. On Thursday, President Farmaajo endorsed Khaire’s statement, expressing his willingness to see elections based on the constitution.
Based on that kind of standpoint, we would like to challenge leaders from Villa Somalia to the smallest political party to act on these convictions. It is one thing to seek timely elections, it is another to support a program that will actualize that thought.
In Somalia, the conductor of elections is the NIEC which has been lethargic about planning for elections. The Commission has blamed every other stakeholder, except itself. So why can’t Somali leaders ensure that the Commission has itself to blame?
It can begin with a joint declaration, say between Villa Somalia and federal states, a commitment to support the Commission on all levels it needs. Then Somalia can sit back and wait to see if the NIEC can do duty.
There are many problems in Somalia at the moment including the spread of Covid-19, security challenges, and a spiraling economy. But it appears whether to hold elections that are inclusive and on time, isn’t a problem at all.