After abandoning one person-one vote elections last year, Somalia’s National Leadership Forum (NLF) produced an important set of results in Baidoa to determine the technicalities of its alternative electoral process.
Leaders agreed on members of the National Traditional Forum — a list of 135 traditional elders from each clan who will choose the 13,750 members of the electoral college that will select the 275 member Lower House of parliament.
Lower House parliamentarians will be chosen by the electoral college at processes run by the regional administrations while regional leaders will directly nominate members of the Upper House. These nominees are to be approved by regional parliaments.
In an apparent government document from late May, the Somali government laid out how Lower House parliamentary seats would be divided by clans:
The NLF may have changed this formula slightly by asserting that 3 Darod-Harti representatives and one Dir representative will be chosen in Jubaland, according to point 11 of the Baidoa communique.
The NLF also agreed to give Banaadir region, which comprises of Mogadishu, 2 members in the Upper House amid a dispute about the long-term status of Somalia’s capital. Many Somali websites have reported that the size of the Upper House will increase from the constitutionally mandated size of 54 to 56 as a result of the addition, but it is unclear if another kind of arrangement are being prepared to accommodate Banaadir representatives.
Overall, several electoral obstacles remain for the government to hold elections for parliament and president in the next three months.
1: Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) is still looking to undermine the electoral process. The Ethiopia-backed Sufi militia temporarily arrested a Hawiye-Ayr clan leader in order to prevent him from participating in a process from which ASWJ largely has protested, in part because it has been at odds with the Galmudug regional administration. It remains to be seen if ASWJ will continue efforts to act as a spoiler, but its ability to stifle the entire process is limited. Nevertheless, the lack of successful reconciliation between ASWJ and Galmudug is clearly hindering efforts to localize the electoral process, as well as overall regional governance in central Somalia.
2: Hawiye-Hawadle clan leaders and locals in Beledweyne protested against the exclusion of its leader Ugaas Xasan Ugaas Khaliif from the list of elders, highlighting a perennial issue of which elders have credibility among clan members. Will this omission hinder the election process in Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle, which remains unfinished due to similar tussles over clan representation?
3: Hawiye-Baadi Cadde sub-clan leaders met together in Mogadishu also to proclaim their disagreement with the overall legitimacy of the elders list, but unless there are broader outcries over the selection, the NLF and international community may be keen to keep the process moving forward.
4: Many observers were alarmed that the communique was only signed by men, despite efforts to include women in political talks. Civic leaders are pushing for leaders to uphold the expectation that 30% of parliamentarians (around 80) should be women in the next legislative body. The fact that two female ministers were sacked this week has raised the question whether female representation is being sacrificed for the sake of electioneering.
Somali leaders and its partners have set up an aggressive timeline to accomplish key tasks, but the election process must survive a potential “death by a thousand cuts” in order to reach its ultimate goal of a successful transition this year.