By; Mohamed Musa Aden.
Somalia is at a crossroad; the election slated for February 8 this year, failed to take place due to a deadlock between members of the federal government and federal member states. The belligerent continues, as the parliament’s and president’s terms of office expired on December 26, 2020 and February 7, 2021, respectively.
The standoff stems from the implementations of the September 17 agreement, which is a detailed agreement specifying how to conduct the indirect elections that was endorsed by the Somali parliaments. The contagious issues of the electoral process are the formation of the Federal and State-Level Electoral committees, who or how Somaliland’s representatives will be chosen, and how the elections in the Gedo region will be held.
Causes of the electoral impasse
The preparing for the 2021 elections has gone through several phases over the last four years. In October 2018, the Federal Government, led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and then-Prime Minister Hassan Khaire, and the five Federal Member States met in Baidabo to chart out possible and inclusive elections. Subsequently, they signed a closed-list proportional representation which would have paved the way for universal suffrage elections to be held for the first time in 51 years.
However, the Federal Parliament has completely reversed that agreement and instead adopted a majoritarian, “First Past the Post” model, which was later signed by the president. But, again, this process has been abandoned after some of the Federal Member States, namely, Puntland and Jubaland and opposition groups based in Mogadishu joined forces to oppose it, citing insecurity, a lack of census, and the fact that the remaining time for the government’s mandate was limited, suggesting that it could not be fulfilled.
The Indirect Electoral Process
The Federal Government and Federal Member States adopted the Indirect Electoral Model after several meetings in Dhusamareb the capital city of Galmudug region, which was finally signed in Mogadishu on September 17, 2020. This model is identical to the one used in the 2016 elections, but it varies in three ways: first, Electoral clan delegates have been raised from 51 in 2016 to 101, Regional state , and civil society will now play a part in appointing MPs, a reversal from the 2016 model in which only the Electoral Colleges exercised those powers. Unlike 2016, two cities will host the election in each City state.
Federal Member States and opposition leaders in Mogadishu have consistently lamented a possible electoral irregularities, making demands that are difficult to meet in what many have characterized as “goalpost changing” tactics. They also accused President Farmajo of gerrymandering the elections by nominating his staunch supporters and security officials to steer electoral processes.
The president’s efforts to convene talks with Federal Member States to amend the unresolved topics and move on to the polls have all failed. International partners, on the other hand, who are adamant that the 17th negotiated electoral mechanism will not be opened, and said no to partial and no parallel elections are attempting to get parties together to break the impasse. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken of the United States urged Somali leaders to set aside their “narrow” political aspirations and hold free and inclusive elections on Friday.
Part of the statement which was published in the State Department’s website reads: “The United States is deeply concerned by the electoral impasse in Somalia, which is creating political uncertainty that threatens security, stability, and development in the country. We call on Somalia’s federal and member state leaders to set aside narrow political objectives, uphold their responsibilities to the people of Somalia, and agree to immediately hold transparent and inclusive elections.”
Forces that are trying to oust Farmaajo
Somalia has never re-elected a president since gaining independence from European colonies in the 1960s. Despite the fact that history is against him, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed alias ‘Farmajo’ could be set to break the jinx.
President Farmajo is up against two former presidents: Hassan Shiekh Mohamed, whom he vehemently defeated in the 2017 elections, and Sheikh Sharif Shiekh Ahmed, with whom he served under during his stint as a Prime Minister in 2021. Hassan Ali Khaire, his former prime minister who served three and a half years under him before being ousted by the House of Representatives, is also a tough contender.
However, observing the nature of the political tactics of the oppositions and the political groups trying to outshine President Farmajo and also the public opinion on who they throw their bet on, indicates that, it’s now or never that an incumbent is set to win a reelection in Somalia.
The political groups, including two Federal Member States, Puntland and Jubaland and a dozen of prospect of presidential candidates have joined hands and are keen on one mission “Replacing” Farmaajo.
Forum for National Political Parties
Political Party leaders, mainly based in Mogadishu formed the Forum for National Political Parties on 30th November to unite for the government prospect political party which that was never established. Though, they have formed parties and later created an alliance, this group succeed in tossing away universal suffrage elections which Farmajo was said to have pushed for.
This Platform brought together six political parties, but instead of calling for one-person-one-vote voting, their functions were limited to issuing press statements and undermining the government’s drive for a popular vote, as well as supporting Puntland and Jubaland’s attempts to thwart that aim.
This forum dissolved almost immediately after the Indirect Elections Act was passed on September 17, 2020, paving the way for the creation for yet another forum against President Farmajo.
Council of Presidential Candidates
The presidential aspirants formed the Council of Presidential Candidates on November 23rd, bringing together former Forum for National Parties colleagues and other candidates. Yet, this was another grouping force coming together for the sole motive of ousting President Farmajo
Though, such a move is not unique, in 2016, a similar council that brought together candidates opposing then President Hassan Shiekh Mohamed was established. However, they differ in several aspects, such as its formation and strength. While this one was formed at a time when the elections are at impasse, the other one was created while the election processes were going on. Secondly, this council faces now an incumbent that has the full backing of three Federal Member States and most importantly, his Prime Minister.
This is unprecedented in the near past Somali history. The only time that a sitting president pursued a second term and had the backing of his premier was in 1967, when president Adan Abdulle Osman’s reelection campaign was spearheaded by Abdirzak Haji Huusein, his then prime minister. They narrowly lost the lost the election.
Moreover, in recent times, cracks within the Council has surfaced which in the longer run could facilitate an ill-fated separation, thus, giving the upper hand the man they want to fight and replace him.
Somali Salvation Forum
The Presidents of the two Federal Member States, Puntland and Jubaland, Council of the Presidential Candidates and a group of Somaliland MPS and prospect candidates led by the Speaker of the Upper House, Abdi Hashi Abdullahi announced the formation of the Somali Salvation Forum.
The objectives of this newly established political forum which has been stated in its first issued communique are to; 1.Ensure that an inclusive elections to be held in the country. 2. Salvaging the country, its unity, togetherness and gains made towards peace building and the processes of State building.
Could this latest forum be the last hope of the opposition groups? What if it would produce the same results of the previous forums, falling short of its expectations? Though, the answers of these questions, many would argue, will be a big “YES” a simple answer that frames the Somalia’s opposition group’s despair to unseat President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
Somalia and Horn of Africa Political analysis.