Somalia: Will the 2016 Elections Be Free and Fair?

Published on 26th January 2016

After close observation of the dismantled federal government into Interim Regional Administrations and federal member states of Puntland and Somaliland - all celebrating  their “constitutions, borders, flags, citizens, presidents, parliaments, council of ministers, security forces, Independent Electoral Commissions, fiscal budgets, banks, TVs, commemoration days, airports, ports, diplomatic relations, natural resources, and clan identity,” one can’t resist raising the following questions:

Who represents and defends the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Somali people? Are articles 1 (the Federal Republic of Somalia), 7 (the Territory of the Federal Republic of Somalia), and 8 (the People and the Citizenship of the Federal Republic of Somalia), still valid and operational? Is it prudent to allow dismantled federal government to continue to exercise power? Can a dismantled Federal Government manage free and fair elections in 2016? In consideration of Somali clan culture and civil war legacy, how long will the different constitutions, security forces, fiscal budgets, diplomatic relations, and judicial systems take to reconcile and integrate them? If international funds dwindle or shift, will the conferences on federal cooperation between federal and regional governments continue and produce durable results? Will the Somali economy afford to foot the payroll and maintenance bill of the disproportionately bloated federal and regional governments?

These questions shed light on the governance crisis overwhelming Somalia. The cancellation of free and fair one person one vote election planned to take place in August 2016 has been a blow to the political stability and confidence in the leadership of the federal government of Somalia. The lack of democratic process for challenging the unlawful and unfair decisions of the federal government institutions is inflaming public frustration and complaints.

The leaders of the federal government are aware of the public complaints but they cherish the vanity of conducting government businesses without democratic process and legal instruments. They tell the people to trust them instead of gaining public trust by obeying the rule of law, government ethics, and by delivering public services. Disregard of the supremacy of the rule of law is recipe for failure.

The emergency measure to form the Somalia National Consultative Forum for the selection of 2016 electoral model has dented the legitimacy of the executive and parliament of the federal government. In converse, the legitimacy of the Forum has been assailed by many political commentators as an unlawful institution. Furthermore, the working of the forum has shown that there is no leader responsible to lead, provide analyzed options for review and final decision, and ensure legitimate decision making process. This means that the jurisdiction over 2016 election is in question, which increases the likelihood of election mismanagement and rigged outcomes.

As a sign of indifference, the recommendations of the community from Somaliland regions, in line with the talks between the federal government and Somaliland, have not been acknowledged and addressed. This reinforces the view that the consultation process was public relation exercise and not binding.

The participants of the regional consultative forums did not discuss an electoral model for the Upper House of the Federal Parliament. Article 55 of the provisional constitution gives the residents in the federal member states the right to elect directly, secretly and freely the 54 members of the Upper House determined on the basis of 18 regions multiplied by 3 representatives. Article 72 requires that all federal member states have equal number of representatives and the 4.5 clan formula representation must be maintained in the Upper House. Compliance with this requirement needs further investigation.

However, Article 138 (2) of the provisional constitution postponed the effects of all articles of the provisional constitution related to the Upper House until such time when all federal member states are established, legalized, and able to conduct election. Until such time, all duties and functions of the Upper House are invested in the People’s House.

Article 64 of the provisional constitution prescribes the election of the 275 members of the people’s house through direct, secret, and free ballot by all citizens. The members of the people’s house must represent all communities in balanced manner. The constitution focuses on clan balance rather than on political constituency.

The debate over the district and 4.5 electoral models has boosted the opportunity to use the population estimation released by the Federal Government and UN Population Fund for the allocation of the 275 members of the people’s house. Political constituency will require population census so that each of the 275 members of the federal parliament will represent a certain number of the population.

What is disconcerting more is that the discussion of the electoral models doesn’t include detailed implementation plan of each electoral model for public understanding, scrutiny, and acceptance. The implementation of each of the options under consideration - district based representation, 4.5 clan based representation for the People’s House; 18 region-based representation, equal number of representatives for all federal member states, and equal 4.5 clan based representatives for federal member states in the Upper House - is complex and vulnerable for political manipulations and disputes with no resolution mechanism in place. Implementation plan must be ready before decision is taken.

Elections are intended to rally people around common goals of the country and strengthen the solidarity of the society. Good number of Somali population firmly believe that 2016 election is hijacked, fixed, and could spark contentions that would widen social and political fragmentation, deepen people’s mistrust in government and politics. This insidious presumption is shaping the opinion that Somali politics as a means of self-enrichment rather as an opportunity for public service.

The prevarication and disobedience of the rule of law leads to failure with disastrous consequences. To underscore the critical role of the rule of law in the success of every country, US President Barak Obama said, “Regardless of the resources a country possesses, regardless of how talented the people are, if you do not have a basic system of rule of law, of respect for civil rights and human rights, if you do not give people a credible, legitimate way to work through the political process to express their aspirations, if you don’t respect basic freedom of speech and freedom of assembly … it is very rare for a country to succeed.” 

Perpetual failures demoralize the people and sets in cynicism. Somalia needs statesmanship and stewardship, which are qualities necessary for the leaders responsible to rebuild the failed state of Somalia and to restore its glory role within the international community. Dismantled federal government cannot accomplish state building and peace building.

By Mr. Mohamud M Uluso
[email protected]

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