Somalia’s National Leadership Forum (NLF) released a communique outlining the schedule for delayed elections and further details on technical aspects of the alternative process that was developed after one person-one vote elections were called off for this election cycle.
Selection of parliamentary members and leadership now will run from September through October, with the President scheduled to be elected by a Lower and Upper House vote on 30 October.
The biggest problem with the election process is that its evolution has been vague, ad hoc, unpredictable, and arbitrary. Rather than ironing out firm details that all stakeholders agree upon from the beginning, the process has seen Somali leaders and mediators put this election together with puzzle pieces that do not fit together — or perhaps with pieces that do not even belong on the same board.
Somali Review has a good summary of each electoral agreement since last year, and it shows how there has often been disparate focal points, details, and amendments along the way, which has made it difficult to create a coherent election process that is accepted by most stakeholders.
While the United Nations praised the most recent electoral deal, cracks began to show just hours after the ink dried.
Former Puntland education minister Ali Haji Warsame and others argued that extension of the government’s mandate by the NLF to accommodate the new election timeline was not legally binding and that parliament should take such action instead.
However, according to Chapter 15 of the provisional constitution, the Independent Constitutional Review and Implementation Commission (ICRIC) and its Oversight Committee — whose work has been slow — are technically responsible for making amendments that are posed to the parliament during this current term. So, Ali H. Warsame is incorrect to say that parliament is the “legal” body from which such an amendment would originate.
Nevertheless, in June, parliament already claimed to amend the provisional constitution to extend the government’s mandate. Even if it did not fulfill the technical steps to do so, it at least foreshadowed that elections would indeed have to be delayed past the original August and September timeline.
As will be explained, this certainly was not the only dissent to the communique.
Dispute over Parliamentary Seats
Earlier this year, the Somali government stated Somaliland and Puntland would receive 11 seats in the Upper House due to their “political maturity” and “size” while other regions would receive 8 and Banaadir region (which includes Mogadishu) would receive zero — adding up to the 54 seats that the provisional constitution lays out.
|Distribution of Upper House Seats in Somalia|
|March 2016||August 2016|
However, the communiques from late June and early August made several changes to the distribution of Upper House seats for some stakeholders while not specifically clarifying how it would impact others.
The recent deal allotted two extra seats (not three as previously noted) to Somaliland and Puntland, but it did not confirm the allocation of other regions such as Jubaland or Galmudug. It also stated Banaadir region would receive Upper House seats through a process overseen by Banaadir leaders in the list of 135 traditional leaders (who are in charge of also selecting electoral college members that in turn select Lower House members.)
One of the unexpected new twists in the new communique is that clans in the disputed northern areas of Sool, eastern Sanaag, and Buhoodle will receive three seats in the Upper House to ensure “minorities get enough representation.”
Galmudug President Abdikarim Guled and an MP from Somaliland claimed that the allocation of these seats for clans in the disputed territory was a veiled benefit to Puntland, likely because they believed Puntland would ultimately be able to influence who won these seats.
Interestingly, on 9 August, Puntland president Abdiweli Gaas rejected the legitimacy of the Khaatumo administration — which claims to represent some members of the clans in the disputed territory. Gaas also insisted that communities in the disputed territories (who like many Puntland communities are from the Darod clan) choose their representatives in Garowe under the auspices of the Puntland government — hence the hesitation from Galmudug president Abdikarim Guled.
Not to be left out, Deputy Prime Minister Mohamed Omar Arte — who is from Somaliland — disagreed with how Upper House seats are allocated for the region, whose separatist government does not acknowledge the process.
Lastly, Somali officials insist that the regional administration for Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle will be formed before elections, and there already may be an effort by IGAD and Ethiopia to force the establishment of the administration through a rushed process in Mogadishu that many stakeholders may not acknowledge as credible. If a certain section of elders continue protests against its formation, it could complicate how parliamentary representatives are chosen for the regions, which ultimately would complicate the vote for the next president.
Election Budget is Election Policy
“Somalia’s Federal Government (SFG) wants electoral budget totally covered by the International Community, GO has learned. Foreign donors asked UN-backed national government to cover 70 % of election costs amid reports that Somali political leaders are pushing for stringent criteria for candidates.”
It is unsurprising the Somali government is reliant on donors to fund such an expanding and critical political process. However, in assessing how money was allocated in Somalia’s 2016 budget, it is very difficult to see how the government planned to hold elections without heavy or complete donor support.
How did the Somali government plan to make any progress on election protocols through 2016 with less than a million dollars appropriated to the National Independent Election Commission, which by October 2015 was essentially ousted from having any role in 2016 polls and was told to concentrate on 2020 elections.
In retrospect, the lack of budget allocations for election-related processes always should have boded negatively for Somalia. Policy scholars have theorized that government policies only can be enacted as far as there is an appropriate budget for that policy.
Using this theory for Somalia, it can be argued Somalia cannot make progress on elections on a year-to-year basis if it fails to appropriate meaningful amounts of funding toward this goal. As Somalia plans future budgets, a key question that should be asked is whether sufficient funding can be allocated and spent transparently toward democratic elections in the future.
As far as this election, there seems to be more disagreement in the aftermath of the new electoral deal than agreement — a familiar pattern.
Despite the multitude of electoral deals made in the last two years, very little technical progress has been realized — and this speaks to the fragility and lack of consensus upon which each communique was signed. Will there be a difference this time?
Somali leaders and the international community can sign communiques until their hearts are content — but that does not equal agreement, progress, or guarantee elections will happen any time soon.
Who’s to Blame?
The idea that an extension of the Somali government’s mandate will allow President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to exercise some kind of autocratic rule is misguided and a convenient abandonment of responsibility by other elites. An extension only affords Hassan Sheikh the opportunity to collect more frequent flyer miles or make dubious (but ultimately meaningless) political gestures.
For better or worse, all major national political decisions at this point will probably be made by the international community and the all-male NLF — despite the heavy public emphasis on women’s participation.
If Somalia fails to hold elections soon, it will be a collective failure because no person or party was willing or able to create a consensus.