Somalia's President could help remove uncertainty on poll model
EDITORIAL | The first two weeks of July have been an eventful load of political activities in Somalia. But the public is yet to know a solution to a continual problem: the kind of elections the country will hold by the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021.
This week, federal-state Presidents have been gathering in Dhusamareb, the capital of Galmudug state. The agenda was to solidify their voice on the national political scene and push a common stand on elections and other key issues.
After the first phase of their meeting, the leaders called for “pragmatism” in organizing the elections. They called for a reality check, first that Somalia would be naïve to think it can run a one-person-one-vote election in four months. The leaders of Puntland, Jubaland, Hirshabelle, South West, and Galmudug also asked that an indirect election be held on time, without the need to extend the term of incumbents.
This standpoint received support from various opposition groups and the Upper House (Senate). The Opposition Forum for National Parties [FNP] endorsed the call but said the discussions should expand to every other stakeholder in the country.
Yet with the support and growing understanding that Somalia is not ready for direct elections; the exact model of elections is still controversial. This week, the public may have been encouraged to see Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire travel to Dhusamareb and join the meeting of the federal states.
Mr. Khaire who has pledged a timely election, and who warns that any delays could cause political crises, has given a national appeal to a meeting that critics had charged was a political lobby of personal interests.
Now that we have moved from the stage of personal political interests, it means the Dhusamareb conference could be a good platform to give a national solution to this electoral model problem.
By Thursday night, it wasn’t clear whether President Farmaajo will travel to Galmudug or organized to meet the federal state leaders in Mogadishu at a later date.
Whichever way it goes; we encourage the President to make a public stand on the electoral model. The President has already pledged, as the Premier did, to ensure elections are free and fair, inclusive, and timely. Yet in those past pleadings, the model of those elections has been missing.
Somalia faces crossroads ahead. The Dhusamareb meeting could provide a national solution, especially since the Prime Minister agreed to speak with the leaders there. But it could end being another talking shop that gives birth to political grandstanding dangerous for the country.
In all this chaotic situation, President Farmaajo could calm waters by providing a suggestion: A proposal on the type of elections to be held which can then generate debate. The President is proposing the model could also go ahead to galvanize legislators to follow through on his proposal. As the country’s leader, he probably enjoys some sort of influence in every corner, useful to make good offices.
This is why we are encouraged by reports of several dozens of legislators approaching him for comment on the matter. A presidential stand on a model can help influence legislators to pass necessary legal regimes to support it. It could also mean he is ready to authorize the monies to run that type of election.
It is good to learn that neither opposition groups nor the federal government of Somalia are willing to delay elections, at least going by the verbal pledges. But it is another thing to actually work on the pledges and ensure polls happen on time.
Most Somalis are actually tired of the controversial 4.5 electoral model which favored the size of clans over actual merit of contenders. In the past, it was the most feasible model and many people endorsed it.
But it has not addressed the concerns of minority clans. It also did not address the position of women and that of vulnerable members of society. Clan elders simply held sway.
This week, the Speaker of the Lower House Mursal Abdirahman indicated there will be no indirect elections, saying the only parliament has powers to decide. Coming with connotations of delaying the poll, his assertions have been fought by opposition groups.
While parliament may have certain powers to amend electoral laws, the situation in Somalia currently requires a political solution, such as a presidential proposal.
The model of elections cannot be rocket science and the choice the country adopts will not be completely foolproof. But it could be soothing if that proposal is agreed on by stakeholders and cemented in law.
The President can kick-start that process by giving the process of political goodwill.