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NIEC chair to address parliament over elections preparation in Somalia

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online
Halima Ismail Ibrahim, the Chairperson of the Somalia’s National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) speaks at a three day training on electoral boundary delimitation held in Nairobi, Kenya on April 23, 2018. The training was organized by the African Union. AMISOM Photo

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] chair Halima Ismael [Halima Yarey] will address parliament on Saturday, with supportive legislation for upcoming elections being one of the agendas, on an occasion which would define Somalia's future especially the political landscape in the country.

With the term of current Parliament and executive set to expire in October, NIEC is mandated to hold elections, but it has struggled to come with a date and agreeable model, further raising questions about the state of preparedness.

Among other things, Ms. Ismael will propose the calendar for parliamentary and presidential elections besides suggesting the best model for the polls. The model has been contested by major stakeholders in the past.

Although NIEC has hinted at holding universal suffrage polls, a section of opposition politicians has poked holes into the system, some arguing that the remaining period would not allow adequate preparations for a free and fair election.

Instead, Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, the leader of the Wadajir party said, NIEC should consider the one-person-one-vote model in future elections but for now focus on clan-based system commonly called 4.5 model.

Apparently, the majority of Somalia's international partners among them the US, Britain, and the European Union have endorsed the universal suffrage model, which NIEC has failed to deliver. The country is, however, yet to start voter registration.

Significantly, NIEC will also table proposals for women, Benadir, and Somaliland representations in parliament. Implementation of the 30 percent quota system for women representation is among the top agendas for the commission.

Already, Lower House has passed a number of legislations among them the expected representations for Benadir and Somaliland regions, with the House also endorsing 30 percent quota for women representation based on the report that was tabled by Parliamentary ad-hoc committee on elections.

However, Senate Speaker Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, who had appointed a committee to ostensibly broker peace between FGS and federal states, dismissed the legislation passed by Lower House as "fake and manipulated".

Intriguingly, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo had agreed with regional leaders early this week to temporarily stop ongoing debate on electoral law until a dialogue is held between the two. Villa Somalia has set July 5-8 as the dates for confidence.

At parliament, Ms. Ismael is also expected to convince the nation that the upcoming elections will have credibility. Previously, Somalia's elections have been chaotic with bribery, fraud, intimidation, and violence eclipsing the exercise.

Heritage Institute, a Somalia-based think tank, insists that "the technical preparation required for a universal suffrage election is also not available". The new law, it adds, "infuses modern democratic norms with traditional power-sharing principles, calls for a biometric system to be used".

Will no voter registration available and with just six months to the anticipated polls, the Think Tank insists that it's practically impossible for the NIEC to hold universal suffrage polls, adding that the move could plunge the country into unprecedented chaos.

"It will be difficult, if not impossible, for the National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] to raise the funds needed, purchase the equipment and develop the capacity to operate it within the eight months remaining before the election," the group said in a report. "Given the short amount of time left, stakeholders must find common ground on the election model."

Besides chaos, the Institute says, the universal suffrage elections could lead to unnecessary term extension due to limited time. Last month, HIPS had recommended an expanded model that gives room for up to 221,000 electors across the five states from the current 14,025.

"The unintended—or perhaps the intended consequence of failing to do so is a term extension for the current administration," the Institute said, adding that the anticipated dialogue should settle on the model soonest.


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