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Puntland boycotts Mogadishu dialogue as Somalia struggles with pre-election hiccups

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

GALKAYO, Puntland - Somalia's pre-election dialogue has been thrown into yet another unprecedented limbo, a move which minimizes chances for a timely election, following Puntland's decision to withdraw from talks which are slated for July 5-8 in Mogadishu.

President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo called for the dialogue after being subjected pressure from stakeholders, and the meeting will among others, solve the quagmire arising for the agreeable model for elections, representations for Banadir, and Somaliland regions in parliament and date for the polls.

But on Tuesday, Said Abdullahi Deni, the president of the federal state of Puntland, formally rejected the invitation for the meeting, a move which could possibly paralyze efforts to find a workable solution for Somalia's unending internal squabbles.

While addressing his constituents at Galkayo, a border town that lies between Galmadug and Puntland on Tuesday, Deni said Puntland is disinterested in the dialogue and cited several issues which he believes have been mishandled.

"We shall not be a party to a preconceived process," Deni said in a speech while marking Somalia's 60th anniversary. "Am honest dialogue should not be opaque and this is why we are bowing out of their talks."

Among others, Farmajo had identified national security, elections, economic prosperity, and fight against Al-Shabaab militants as some of the most pressing issues to be addressed during the conference. Besides federal leaders, Villa Somalia also invited Mogadishu Mayor Omar Filish for the meeting.

Last week, legislators from Puntland warned against the meeting while accusing the Lower House of "blatantly" approving legislation without consultations. The regional legislators termed the move "unconstitutional" and called for an immediate withdrawal of the legislation.

Despite an agreement between Farmajo and regional leaders to halt the Lower House debates, MPs have approved 13 seats in Senate for Banadir region in coming elections, 30 percent quota for women representation, and were on the verge of approving universal suffrage model of elections.

But Deni insisted that such actions showcase "arrogance" from the current regime, adding that the region will not "betray" the conscious of Somalis by participating in predetermined negotiations contrary to the spirit of nationalism.

"We can't allow a scenario where few people try to impose certain things to us contrary to the law. I am not going for those talks and that's the position of Puntland. It's absolutely unacceptable that we are being dragged to engage in predetermined negotiations."

Somalia is struggling to reach a consensus on the pre-election legislation and the withdrawal of Puntland comes barely a week after Senate Speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi also termed Lower House legislation as "unconstitutional", adding that at least 27 clauses in the original report by the parliamentary ad-hoc committee had been mutilated.

On Saturday, National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] boss Halima Ismael ruled out the possibility of holding universal suffrage polls within this year, a move that would automatically trigger term extension for the current administration.

Somalia, she said, would realistically hold manual one-person-one-vote elections in March 2021 or a biometric one five months later. The submissions have been endorsed by the International partners, who are rooting for the model, which was last tested in 1969 before the military took over.

But a section of opposition politicians and federal leaders want a compromise for the sake of holding elections within the constitutional framework without term extensions. Some want the traditional clan-based 4.5 model used before implementation of universal suffrage in coming elections.

The decision by Deni to drop out of the dialogue also comes days after he vowed to reject the outcome of talks between Somalia and Somaliland, which are currently ongoing in Djibouti. The regional leader accused Somaliland of forcefully taking territories of Puntland around Sanaag and Sool areas.


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