What’s happened: The newly reconstituted election commission for Somalia’s Southwest (SW) administration has delayed regional presidential elections for a second time to December 5th. The new electoral members are reportedly receiving pressure from the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to include new eligibility requirements that would annul the candidacy of ex-Shabaab senior leader Mukhtar Robow — one of most serious threats to the FGS-supported candidates in former Minister of Energy, Abdiazis Hassan Mohamed ‘Lafta Gareen,’ and former intelligence chief Hussein Mohamed Hussein.
Why it matters: If Robow’s candidacy is invalidated, it would remove another powerhouse candidate from the race following the resignation of SW president Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan in early November. In the eyes of the FGS’ opponents, it also would affirm concerns of government interference and possibly create a political crisis that could delay elections further.
Notably, Robow is still under U.S. Treasury and INTERPOL sanctions. While the international community has been largely silent in regard to its assessment of Robow’s eligibility, it almost certainly hopes it does not have to address the legal dilemma of providing in any kind of support to Robow if he were to gain the most votes among the 149 regional members of parliament (MPs).
Update (Nov 25): Robow successfully received certification from the new electoral commissiona and five candidates have dropped out of the race to support Robow, including the following:
- Maxamed Aadan Fargeeti (Former Finance Minister)
- Eng. Saalax Sheekh Cismaan (Former Public Affairs Minister)
- Xasan Macallin (Former federal MP)
- Yuusuf Baadiyow (Former federal MP)
- Xuseen Kushuk
Big Picture: In September 2018, regional administrations “suspended relations” with the FGS due to a myriad of complaints regarding revenue sharing, consultation with foreign policy, and the politicization of the security sector, among other issues.
Since then, the FGS has tried to dismantle the solidarity of regional administrations. To date, the FGS has had only minor success, as it has only managed to reconcile with the Hirshabelle administration. However, the central government appears to be stepping up efforts to undermine other regional administrations by supporting proxies in upcoming regional electoral races.
Politicians in the federal government generally should be allowed to participate in regional affairs. However, the issue is that many observers believe the government is employing government funds to either bribe SW members of parliament (MPs) who vote for the regional president or offer material support to its preferred candidates, such as bulletproof vehicles and bodyguards.
The fact a Somali parliament committee recently issued a report alleging the Ministry of Finance could not account for $42 million underscores the legitimacy of these concerns, especially since subsequent reports detailed another conspiracy on behalf of the finance minister and his boss to pay off several parliamentary committee members to discredit the report.