The President of Somalia is not blocking the elections. Federal states are.

May 18, 2021 at 8:51 am

To avoid a power vacuum after my four-year term as President of Somalia ended on February 8, the Somalia People’s House passed a law in 2020 to ensure that the political transfer of power does not take place. legitimately only through elections. This means that the current elected representatives must remain in office until they are re-elected or replaced through the electoral process.

Elections in Somalia have been delayed not because I want to cling to power, as some have falsely argued, but because of a political stalemate which has led to a rift between Somalia’s federal government and some of its Member States on the way forward.

At the heart of the disagreement is a conflict between my government’s goal of universal suffrage through direct elections and those who insist on an indirect election model that empowers elites and denies ordinary citizens the right to vote. It is time for the international community to ask: why do a small number of clan elders and leaders of federal member states have to hold the Somali people hostage every four years? And why must the private interests of this small elite silence the voices of the millions of people they claim to represent?

In Somalia since 2012, all presidents, including myself, have been elected for a four-year term. But given that it is essential that the country’s future leadership be determined through an inclusive democratic process, the 2021 elections have been delayed to meet this demand. In the last two elections, Somali clan elders played a major role in selecting political representatives of entire communities under a strict clan power-sharing formula.

These clan elders represented, and continue to do, the five main Somali clans who share governance powers in Somali society. Since all previous elections were indirect and concentrated enormous political power and influence in the hands of 135 clan elders, I was keen to prepare an improved model for the elections rather than maintaining the status quo. The fact that there have been sequential peaceful transfers of power in Somalia in the past, despite the delays of all previous elections, is a testament to the growing political maturity of our fragile state.

In Somalia, our federal model also requires a strong partnership between the federal government and the five federal member states, namely Puntland, Jubaland, South West, Galmudug and Hirshabelle. These federal member states play a key role in the national electoral process. Since Somalia is a representative democracy, federal member states are vital constituencies for political representatives in both the House of the People and the Senate, the latter representing only their interests at the federal government level.

Since the start of my mandate from February 2017, my government has opened up the political space for dialogue before any electoral process to all federal member states, which are the main electoral actors. In fact, our ambition has always been clear to move Somalia from indirect elections to full universal suffrage during my four-year tenure, and it seemed possible after we reached a agreement with federal member states in June 2018.

This was not immediately possible, however, as all five federal member states reneged on the agreement. Instead, they opted for a renegotiated electoral model, because they opposed the multiparty system based on proportional representation that returned power to the people and excluded the established monopoly of the elders of the clan.

With great regret and dismay from key stakeholders, including federal lawmakers who wanted multiparty elections, an indirect election was negotiated and agreed to on September 17, 2020, as a way to preserve and strengthen our traditions and aspirations. national democratic policies. .

In all states emerging from conflict and in the process of fragile recovery, state-building processes are constantly negotiated and shaped by dialogue and compromise. Confidence is also lacking. Understanding this all too well, I accepted the September 2020 deal, which was finalized by a group of technical experts representing the federal government and its member states. It was a radical shift from the goal of universal suffrage to a return to a clan-based model simply to accommodate the ever-changing views and needs of federal member states.

This agreement and its implementation processes provided a clear roadmap and a reasonable timeline for meeting the election calendar. This process failed as soon as the leaders of Puntland and Jubaland returned from their trip to the United Arab Emirates and Kenya – two countries with which Somalia did not have strong bilateral relations – at the end of November 2020.

Then, last month, the Somali People’s House, in accordance with its constitutional mandate, decided that the only way to remedy this crippling situation and preserve the nascent democracy in Somalia was to revert to the aspiration for universal suffrage of here two years at most. . This period was necessary to effectively prepare for the elections.

Unfortunately, despite the independence of legislators, this action has been presented as an illegal extension of the federal government’s mandate by the opposition and some of Somalia’s main international partners, including the United Nations, the European Union, the United Kingdom. United Kingdom and United Kingdom. in the United States, to name a few. In fact, it was a perfect opportunity to end the monopoly of the clan model over the political future of Somalia.

Following the majority vote of the House of the People, I signed the draft law on universal suffrage, which stipulated that the elections were to be held within two years. Despite a misguided and highly politicized national and international outcry, this was truly the only way out of the political impasse and meet the aspirations of the Somali people to shape their own political destiny.

Once again, the federal government compromised after the outbreak of violence provoked by members of the opposition. In addition, in line with our commitment to compromise and the need to preserve national unity and protect the security of our citizens, we returned to Parliament and I personally called on the People’s House to return to the elections. indirect, for which she voted unanimously in May. 1.

By the end of this month, we will return to the table again to finalize the agreement on the implementation of indirect elections. The process will be led by Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble and we will ensure that it is as inclusive as possible within the confines of an indirect election and that it happens as soon as possible.

Sadly, Somalia’s political fragility at the present time defies the established practical and healthy democratic tradition of majority rule, due to demands for full unanimity. Getting electoral consensus in Somalia means convincing absolutely all stakeholders, all the time and on all issues.

This is what makes the extremely unique and inclusive governance of Somalia incredibly difficult. Indirect elections are clearly neither ideal nor sustainable. They also do not represent the true will of the people. Nonetheless, after a difficult negotiating process, they are all Somalia has now.

As a long-time supporter of the values ​​of democracy and who has proudly worked in public service in the United States and Somalia, I strongly believe in expanding the political space to create a truly thriving, sustainable democratic politics. and inclusive in Somalia.

Many of the remaining challenges of state-building processes in Somalia stem from exclusive elite claims centered on patriarchal clan identity. It does not serve the democratic or development interests of the Somali people in the long term.

The recent regrettable political violence in Somalia has been opportunistically presented as a measure of last resort by those who initiated it, but there is no shortcut to a democratic transition in Somalia.

Somalia continues to face major statebuilding and development challenges. It is evident that the top-down state-building process does not guarantee universal suffrage to the people. In the future, more bottom-up approaches should be encouraged and supported. However, we are determined that our democratic transitions will always be owned and led by Somalis.

To this end, we will strive and always must strive for universal suffrage while implementing the current indirect elections so that Somalia escapes the recurring painful trap of short-term fragility and all of its people can elect their own. long-term leaders.

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