Somalia’s Electoral Crisis Divides Optimists and Pessimists

Somalia’s Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT) claimed in a press conference this week that elections were on course not to be delayed again, despite concerns to the contrary.

The 2016 electoral process will be held on time, according to the chairperson of the Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT) Omar Mohamed Abdulle who addressed a press conference in the Somali capital today. Mr. Abdulle said the current deadlines for selecting members of parliament and the federal president in October of this year will be met. He also welcomed the establishment of six State-Level Indirect Electoral Implementation Teams (SIEITs).

SOMALIA’s 2016 ELECTORAL PROCESS REMAINS ON COURSE from UNSOM on Vimeo.

FIEIT chairperson Omar Mohamed also stated the following:

“The most important part of the electoral process was to put together 135 traditional elders according to each federal state…All these activities show that everything is running according to plan. At this stage, if the lists are submitted, we’ll have achieved 50% of the electoral process.”

To clarify, the selection of the traditional elders is not the most important part of the electoral process because those leaders — of which some are disputed — still must select over 14,000 electoral college members who are to select members of the Lower House of parliament — a daunting process.

Since there is no evidence that efforts to establish the electoral college have begun, it does not bode well for Somalia to reach the fifty percent mark soon.

Many Somali observers also expect a second postponement of elections: (via Shabelle)

A highly respected Somali politician Abdullkadir Sheikh Ismail said he does not see any signs for elections to take place in Somalia this year due to lack of ultimate preparations. Speaking in a phone interview with Radio Shabelle, Ismail has accused Somali leaders of failing to hold an inclusive, transparent and credible electoral process in 2016. “I’m really very pessimistic about the elections in September and October, because of lack of continued political and security progress,” Ismail added.

Another factor that could delay elections is another unexpected change in the modalities of the process.

According to Garowe Online, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has sought to scrap the election of the Upper House of parliament due to the disagreement over its composition.

On one hand, the suspension of the Upper House process could make it easier for Somalia to achieve its electoral objectives on time. As of now, regional leaders are ostensibly focused who to consider nominating as members of the Upper House, and these members must be approved by the respective regional parliaments.

If the Upper House process is scrapped for the election cycle, these leaders could switch their focus to ensure that traditional elders pick electoral college members on time. Some observers may also think that this could avoid another political crisis by postponing debate on the distribution of Upper House seats.

On the other hand, allowing the national president to be chosen solely by a Lower House vote again would decrease the number of votes that presidential candidates would be required to bribe to cushion their support. This would be an advantage to those loaded with cash, as a higher number of voters would thin out the financial resources of candidates aiming to utilize this strategy. Equally important, there probably would still be a political crisis if the president sought to make another major change to elections without the consensus of the Prime Minister and regional leaders.

Somalia has to make a choice between the speed and representation of elections. Reducing or scrapping modalities like the electoral college or Upper House would enhance the pace of elections but would sacrifice broader participation and representation that has been sought after.

Maintaining the aspiration of a 14,000-plus electoral college and Upper House would add a flavor democratisation but would continue to strain the credibility of an administration that must continue extend its mandate to build sufficient consensus and to execute such a difficult plan. As of today, there were reports in Somali media that there was still no defined budget for elections, and national leaders were considering to decrease the size of the electoral college, which would decreases costs predominately being paid by the international community.

All in all, while the international community does not tolerate the status quo, there is no easy way out.



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