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Somalia's opposition welcomes historical pre-election deal

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia's main opposition groups have welcomed a pre-election deal that was signed on Thursday by a number of stakeholders, further ending an emerging rift that could have derailed efforts to restore peace and stability in the Horn of Africa nation.

Interestingly, the deal was only signed by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, five regional leaders, and Mogadishu Mayor Omar Filish, who were the conveners of the conference. The opposition team was not invited to the dialogue which was also endorsed by the international community.

In a tweet, Senator Ilyas Ali Hassan, who is the de facto spokesperson of the Forum for National Parties [FNP], a conglomerate of six opposition groups, said the coalition endorses the deal for the sake of stability and prosperity of the Horn of Africa nation.

"FNP welcomes the election modality agreement reached by the FGS and FMS," he said. "The FNP underscores its firm belief that the peaceful transition of power through viable election modality is crucial to avoid mandate extension-induced political and constitutional crisis."

The FNP coalition under the stewardship of former Presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is contemplating to field a single presidential candidate who will run against President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo. Talks for such actions are still on and they last met in Turkey early this year.

Also in support of the deal is the Wadajir party whose leader Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame said the agreement paves way for a new Somalia. The fierce opposition leader also welcomed the appointment of Mohamed Hussein Roble as the Prime Minister of the country.

"The Wadajir party welcomes the deal between the Federal Government of Somalia and the Federal states. This is a major milestone for Somalia's quest for peaceful elections. We also welcome the appointment of a new PM," read the statement, which also faulted Farmajo for inability to hold one-person-one-vote elections.

Earlier, immediate former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire had also welcomed the deal, which he termed as "historical". Khaire, who was hounded from office in July after a disagreement with Farmajo, has since declared interest to run for president in the upcoming elections.

Inside the deal, Garowe Online reported, the team agreed to appoint Federal Electoral Commission which will work with another team from member states. The decision rules out participation of NIEC in the indirect polls, contrary to the initial Dhusamareb agreement that seemed to incorporate the team in the electoral arrangements.

Constituencies will be designated in two cities within the federal states, the agreement read, adding that the number of delegates who will vote each MP will be 101, representing the community sharing the parliamentary seat. This is a reduction from 301 that had been agreed at the Dhusamareb III conference.

The electors will be determined by traditional elders in collaboration with the civil society and member states with women getting a minimum of 30 percent slots to boost the affirmative action. It's not clear if this process will curb the infiltration of Al-Shabaab into parliament following reports that the group had compromised a section of elders.

For senators, stakeholders said, regional parliaments will pick the representatives, who will represent their interests in Mogadishu. Members of the Senate [Upper House] and Lower House from secessionist Somaliland will be elected by a joint delegation in Mogadishu, the agreement noted.

Somaliland runs a separate functional government and has been pushing for international recognition for three decades ever since claiming self-independence in 1991. The region has intensified quest for statehood in recent months by signing cooperation with a number of other states, including Taiwan, a region claimed by China.

The agreement also provides that elections to be held from November 2020 when the term of the current parliament expires to February 2021 when presidential elections are expected to be held. This effectively ends speculations about term extensions as earlier noted by critics.

Both parties agreed to collaborate on issues security which has traditionally destabilized the nation due to persistent Al-Shabaab attacks, adding that improved security would guarantee a credible electoral process. Al-Shabaab has been wreaking havoc in the country for the last 13 years.

The leadership further emphasized the need for freedom of expression including but not limited to allowing reporters to execute their work without intimidation. In recent months, journalists have been subjected to harassment, intimidations, arbitrary arrests, and detentions, causing international outrage and condemnation.