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Experts call for indirect elections in Somalia

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The current political quagmire in the federal republic of Somalia can only be solved through a constructive dialogue which would pave way for indirect elections upon the expiry of the tenure for the current administration, a number of experts have asserted, ruling out the possibility for universal suffrage polls.

For years, Somalia has relied heavily on the archaic clan-based model which gives community elders room to pick representatives, who eventually elect the president of the country. The model discriminates certain clans and has often generated heated political debates in recent months.

The model is also known as the 4.5 system and has been applied in the last couple of elections. However, there have been efforts to discard the model in favor of a more inclusive one-person-one-vote model, which has attracted support from both the federal government and international partners.

With the National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] ruling out the possibility of holding elections this year in compliance with the model, a political crisis has ensued, forcing both the FGS and federal states leadership to convene in Dhusamareb for negotiations.

But despite both parties agreeing to constitute a committee that would look into the appropriate model after FMS ruled out direct polls, parliament, which is pushing for one-person-one-vote elections, kicked out Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire, further showcasing growing rift within political cycles in the Horn of Africa nation.

Although the team will reconvene in Dhusamareb to explore alternative models for elections, a number of experts now want the country to hold indirect elections, citing time constraints as the most prevailing factor. The term for the current government expires in November 2020.

Afyare Elmi, a professor of politics and security, argues that the current situation favors a negotiated indirect model to avert possible term extensions. According to him, stakeholders should negotiate on improving the clan-based model despite being unpopular from certain quarters.

"On term-extension vs. timely Indirect election, think the momentum is on the side of the latter. Hope FGS leaders understand this, negotiate with FMSs, & improve z indirect (s)election model (more cities, delegates). If anything firing the PM has not made term extension easier," he notes.

While blaming President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Abdirashid Hashi, the director of Heritage Institute of Policy Studies, contends that the universal suffrage polls cannot be held within the constitutional timelines, adding that attempts to push the model would lead to term extension and probably plunge the country into unprecedented chaos.

"Somali President needs to face this fact that his government failed to usher in one-person-one-vote on time and the Election Commission reported 1P1V cannot happen on time and within the legal mandate," he says. "Thus instead of repeating ‘we want 1P1V’ the Prez should say: please I need an extension."

Alternatively, he argues, stakeholders should consider an expanded electoral model but with features of 4.5 system. According to him, the Expanded Participation Model will bring more groups on board compared to previous elections which puts emphasis on elders.

Under this model, he argues, the number of electors will be increased from the current 14,025 to around 221,000. At least 1000 people will have an opportunity to pick a member of parliament compared to the current model where MPs are chosen by a few elders.

"Another option the President & the assembled Somali politicians in Dhusamareb could consider is an agreed-upon indirect election; HIPSInstitute presented a workable option Expanded Participation Model [EPM] which could be implemented before November 27; Time is of the essence," he adds.

To date, the country is also yet to settle on the number of representatives for Banadir and Somaliland regions, something that would likely feature in the upcoming Dhusamareb Phase II talks. Also, the issue of a 30 percent quota for women representation is yet to be agreed upon.

Despite the huge divisions in the country, Says Rashid Abdi, another analyst, Somalia will one day rise up by shunning deeply rooted clan divisions which have been the source of insecurity and instability. The country has struggled to end inter-clan conflicts and terrorism for almost three decades.

"Communities divided by clan, other disputes talking, making peace, raising funds to improve infrastructure, basic services. Culture of sharing, volunteerism, solidarity ameliorating worst forms of poverty, humanitarian hardship," he notes.

"No doubt, the road ahead, in the short-to-medium term, will be bumpy, setbacks inevitable, but long-term prospects bright. That road is paved by a combination of hope, selflessness strategic thinking, and realism."

Last week, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo maintained that he's not settled on any model for elections, adding that experts will come up with a system that will be agreeable to all stakeholders. He made a surprise trip to Dhusamareb where regional leaders had been meeting.