Inside ad-hoc committee's proposals to parliament over upcoming elections in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The parliamentary ad-hoc committee on elections is set to unveil a number of recommendations that will give Somalia various options of solving various contested issues about upcoming elections, with parliament already reconvening after almost three months break.
Comprising of representatives from both Senate and Lower House, the committee had been tasked to collect views from the people on among others, the most preferred model for elections, delimitation of constituencies, and representation of Banadir and Somaliland regions in parliament.
The tenure for current parliament and executive is set to elapse in October, with elections tentatively set for December. On June 27, the National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] will issue a comprehensive calendar for the elections according to parliamentary leadership.
But even before the ad-hoc committee presents a raft of proposals for consideration, insiders have revealed some of the drastic recommendations that would be debated by MPs before final adjustments are done.
With the committee settling on universal suffrage elections, it has also proposed allocation of seats to constituencies which will be identified through special numbers. Currently, the country doesn't have constituencies but only relies on clans to pick representatives to parliament.
To fulfill the universal suffrage polls, the committee says, voter registration should be done by NIEC soonest, with the team now tasked to enlist as many voters as possible. Voters, it adds, will choose MPs vying for a particular seat identified by the number.
Where registration and voting cannot take place, representatives from that particular region will find an alternative venue for the polls, reads the recommendations in part. Verified voter registration will be used during the exercise.
Secessionist Somaliland will have at least 81 electors who will participate in the polls. The electors, the report says, will be verified by a group of clan superiors, elders and jurors, and voting will be managed by a special area-election team appointed by NIEC.
For over three decades, Somaliland has been operating a functional government but it's yet to be recognized internationally. The region voted for self-independence in 1991 in which residents accused Mogadishu of overseeing genocide within the north during the reign of Siad Barre.
The committee has also allocated seven seats in Senate to the Banadir region, which hosts the capital, Mogadishu. Throughout the transition, the region has never received the allocation of seats, just like those given to Puntland, Southwest, Galmadug, HirShabelle, and Jubaland, Somalia's known regional states.
NIEC has also been mandated to find "appropriate" measures to ensure the 30 percent quota for women representation is fulfilled during the polls. All seats currently occupied by women, the report says, will be reserved for women MPs in the upcoming elections, as the NIEC fills the remaining 6 percent.
Being a patriarchal community, Somalia has struggled to have many women in elective positions. Ben Fender, the British envoy to Somalia, on Saturday asked parliament to ensure "women representation is given priority during the 7th session".
Already, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo has hinted scrapping of the clan-based model of elections, which has traditionally been used in Somalia. Locally, the system is known as 4.5 and clan elders from all five states are given powers to elect MPs.
But during his address in parliament on Saturday, Farmajo, who's facing a fierce re-election battle, endorsed the one-person-one-vote model, arguing that it gives people "freedom" to choose whoever they want in all elective positions.
"I urge the Somali people to come out and vote freely and to vote for the party they want to overcome the deadly diseases such as tribalism, poverty, and terrorism,” said Farmaajo, who is facing fierce competition from two of his predecessors.
“Tou have passed the elections bill which I have even assented to and I can assure you that this country will no longer hold elections based on clans or bloodshed,” Farmajo said. “We are heading to an election where every citizen will be able to vote and elect their favorite candidate and political party.”
Jawahir Adam, a governance commentator, supports the elimination of the clan-based model, arguing that it's the major reason why inter-clan conflicts are synonymous with all social-economic and geopolitical situations in Somalia.
"The clan-based governance and federalism that was strongly supported by many in the international community have caused regional conflicts, protracted displacement, crippled governance, and immense mistrust among the Somali political actors," he wrote in one of the dailies.
But the universal suffrage model is facing resistance from a section of opposition bigwigs, who insist that it's a scheme by the current administration to extend the term of parliament and executive.
Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the leader of the Wadajir party, recently said that the status quo should be maintained, adding that the one-person-one-vote model should be implemented in the next cycle of elections after the December polls due to limited time.
On his part, Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni also rejected the clan-based model, terming it unconstitutional during a televised address from Garowe last week. Instead, the Puntland leader wants a national conversation where all stakeholders will be involved in determining the voting model.