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Somalia under fire from Int'l partners to adopt electoral law ahead of polls

By Staff Correspondent , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The federal government of Somalia ought to adopt electoral law before polls scheduled for December, international partners have said.

For months now, the Horn of Africa nation has been thrown into limbo over persistent wrangles precipitated by the right model to be used.

While a section of leaders has expressed reservations for the winner-takes-all model, the international community has already endorsed it.

The parliamentary select committee also recommended the universal suffrage, although it's yet to be adopted by both houses.

Implementation of electoral law

But in a statement on Tuesday, the partners stressed the importance of holding elections in time in compliance with an earlier agreement.

In order for elections to be held on time, they said, "it is essential that an implementable electoral law is adopted as a matter of priority."

Already, the partners have met NIEC, speakers of both houses and the ad-hoc committee reviewing the current electoral bill.

During the meetings, they said, "discussions centered around the importance of Parliament adopting an implementable and fundable electoral law in a timely manner."

Before the end of the current session, the partners said, budget plans should be submitted to ensure everything is secured this year.

Some of the unresolved issues

While the bill has been crafted, a number of issues remain unresolved, something that may sabotage the entire preparations, analysts say.

But the international partners now want the contagious issues to be addressed urgently for the sake of meeting timelines.

Some of the controversial issues include the definition of constituencies, allocation of Upper House seats and "one man one vote" model, the partners said.

Also, the gender parity rule is yet to be determined, with proponents pushing for at least 30 percent representation for women in electoral seats.

Voting arrangements for Benadir and Somaliland have also remained a nightmare.

And the partners now want Parliament to finalize an implementable law "without delay to avoid a risk of political instability".

Support towards NISA

To realize the agreed timelines, the partners said, National Independent Electoral Commission [NISA] will be fully supported.

Already, NISA has been running campaigns for voter registration which remains a fundamental requirement for the winner-takes-all model.

They said: "We will give technical support to the NIEC to jointly prepare and present options for Somali actors to resolve the outstanding issues in the draft bill."

At the request of the speakers of the two houses, the statement read, the United Nations has provided a document, prepared jointly with the NIEC, with details of these options for their consideration.

Parliament, they said, should pass the law for the polls before it goes for recess. Somalia is expected to go for polls in December 2020.

Opposition protests over the law

But should parliament approve the bill, the standoff could even persist, given reservations by the opposition parties in Somalia.

For instance, Wadajir party leader Abdirahman Abdishakur said: "it's not realistic to hold one 'person one vote' polls without extension of the current term."

And the Forum for National Parties [FNP] under former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, has warned against any extension of the current term.

The two parties have met President Mohamed Farmajo, with talks about timely polls featuring. The talks have however failed to bear fruits.