President Farmajo must clarify pledges on elections in Somalia
EDITORIAL | Somalia’s Federal Parliament reopened last Saturday amid jeers from a section of legislators angered with the way President Mohamed Farmajo was running things.
Amid the chaos though, President Farmajo must be commended for pledging that things will be “different” this coming election. The leader promised there will be a one-person-one-vote election, something every Somali citizen under 40 years has never seen happen in the country.
Yet the President was telling a parliamentary sitting that Somalis must come out and “vote for the party they want to overcome the deadly diseases such as tribalism, poverty, and terrorism.”
There is one positive thing from that statement: It means that the Somali President is keen for an election to happen after all. There are also indications from Villa Somalia that the election should go on as scheduled.
But that promise, to Somalis, made on the Floor of the House, however, lacks clarity. First, there has been no consensus on the electoral model to be used this coming election. Such clarity can only come from stakeholder dialogue, which has been absent.
And this appears to be a symptom rather than a cause of the fractured relations between the Federal Government of Somalia and federal member states. In public, Villa Somalia has often issued assurances that elections will be on time. In reality, however, little moves. The last formal meeting between President Farmajo and Federal state administrators was in June 2018.
Last year, a sidelines meeting in Galmudug last year in May left no tangible outcome. There has been a lull ever since, punctuated by occasional accusations of interference.
Garowe Online lays the responsibility on the door of President Farmajo and asks that he clarifies how the election will go on as he promised with gaps in dialogue. We are pleased to hear more stakeholders join the call by the leadership of the Upper House for an urgent dialogue between Villa Somalia and Federal member states. Political parties, ex-Presidents, and Somalia’s donors have all endorsed this call.
Dialogue does not necessarily mean there will be instant agreement on the model, but it offers the best platform for views to be exchanged and compromises made. Somalia’s recent history in the past decade, has, indeed, been about compromises.
For a country that is only rising from the ashes of civil war, the advantages of leaders sitting to have a talk cannot be gainsaid. We note the divergent views on the electoral model needed.
Some have argued the remaining time may be too little to implement universal suffrage, which usually requires the electoral commission to register voters and tabulate polling stations across the country.
The upcoming election may require at least $53 million in conservative estimates to run. Add that to the continual security challenge posed by al-Shabaab and the nightmare of running such an election becomes clear. The President risks being detached from reality by not urgently elaborating his plan to the public.
So what is the alternative? The clan-based college system that served Somalis in the past three elections is now controversial. Puntland has said it will not take part in an election run on the clans’ delegate system. Jubaland and Puntland have further indicated they won’t even implement the controversial electoral law which parliament had passed and President Farmajo assented to.
One of the contradictions in that law was that while Somalis are allowed the free choice to elect leaders, clans retain influence to determine the actual selection of representatives. We call on the 7th Session of Parliament to address this anomaly urgently. It must help with the correct constitutional amendments which will clarify the relationship between the federal government and federal states.
We also call on the President of Somalia to clarify how a universal suffrage election will be run when no sufficient support has been provided to the National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC).
We reject suggestions for delay of extension of the mandate of both parliament and the President. Somalis yearn for the days when they can choose leaders for themselves, rather than have clan elders determine their future.
We recognize that Somalia’s last free and fair, one-person-one-vote elections happened in 1969. But it was followed with a horrid incident after the winner of that election Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke was assassinated. If we have to avoid mistakes of the past and help the country heal from the dictatorship of Siad Barre, a free and fair election would be the best gift, 50 years on.