Somalia's opposition gangs up against NIEC, calls for its resignation
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A day after delivering proposals on the management and subsequent holding of the much-awaited elections, Somalia's electoral body is now under pressure to quit, with main opposition parties accusing it of incompetence.
The National Independent Electoral Commission [NIEC] had said the Horn of Africa nation could realistically hold manual universal suffrage polls in March 2021, and should the country settle on biometric polls, voters would have to wait for extra five months.
Among other things, NIEC said, the country needs adequate voter registration and civic education, an exercise which Ms. Halima Ismael said would take up to August 2021 for her team to deliver.
But in a rejoinder, the Forum for National Parties [FNP], which is a conglomerate of six opposition parties, called for "immediate" resignation of the NIEC in a tough-worded statement on Sunday, arguing that the commission has "failed" to hold the polls on schedule.
The commission, FNP added, has since "lost the public trust" and no longer holds the desires of the stakeholders. The coalition also insisted that the move by NIEC would lead to an unprecedented "extension" of the tenure of both parliament and executive.
Ideally, the term of the two is set to expire in October this year, a move that could plunge the country into a possible electoral crisis and into a possibility of political conflicts. The tentative date for polls had earlier been set for December.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, one of the FNP's patrons, dismissed a statement by NIEC, arguing that "this is not what we expected". The immediate former leader added that "NIEC is harboring intentions of term extensions of the current leadership".
Similar sentiments were echoed by Wadajir party leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame, who accused NIEC of failing to do an assessment of the current situation in Somalia, including the financial implications of the one-person-one-vote model.
"The NIEC has failed to do real assessment of security, political and financial challenges that impede universal suffrage election. They just carried out simple quotations and little survey. The process is now in deadlocked," he noted.
Abdirahman has been one of the crusaders of the archaic 4.5 model which he insists will enable the country to hold this year's elections before the country shifting to universal suffrage model, which enjoys support from Somalia's international partners.
The US, European Union, and Britain, who are major sponsors of social-economic activities in Somalia, have been pushing for the universal suffrage, which they insist that would allow Somalis to choose leaders of their choice. The war-torn nation has traditionally embraced a clan-based model due to internal political dynamics.
Despite calls to quit, Ms. Ismael has since defended her team, arguing that the commission does not subscribe to any political ideology, adding that it's committed to holding transparent elections in compliance with the wishes of the majority.
"We are an impartial institution and we will continue to stay on course. Our mission is to deliver a transparent and inclusive electoral process embedded with integrity. For far too long, our nation has denied its people the basic human right to vote for the candidate of their choice," she noted.
"I urge all stakeholders to stand with NIEC to make this historic election a reality. The commission will continue to be guided by the constitution and all other legal frameworks," added Ms. Ismael, whose submissions have since ignited internal political fireworks.
With the ongoing enactment of legislation in Lower House having been subjected to heated political debates, Somalis hope now lie on the July 5-7 dialogue in Mogadishu, which would see President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo meet a number of his critics including federal states' leaders.