The Speaker of the Upper House of the federal parliament, the presidents of the federal member states, the prominent leaders of the political opposition groups and the civil society organizations, and the public in general strongly objected the legitimacy and impartiality of the two Federal Election Committees (one for southern states and one for the representatives of the Somaliland state) and of the Electoral Dispute Resolution Committee appointed by the Prime Minister Mohamed H Roble under the directive of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo.
The committees guide and supervise the implementation of the Indirect Election Model and adjudicate election disputes as well in accordance with the political agreement between the presidents of the Federal Government and Federal Member States dated September 17, 2020 and with the rules and procedures assuring free and fair elections. The elections of the 329 members of the federal parliament was supposed to take place before the end of November 2020, but as of today, they are up in the air.
The appointed members of the electoral bodies are accused of being illegitimate, partisan, and ill-equipped to administer free and fair election for genuine reasons. First, some members of the Electoral Committees are public servants and intelligence officials working in the Presidential office, National Intelligence Agency Service (NISA), and other federal government institutions. Indeed, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the President Abdinur Mohamed is member of the election committee and he is purportedly the committee’s Chairperson. More serious, the Chief of NISA Fahad Yassin has been accused of directly managing the federal and state elections.
The appointment is unquestionably illegal because it disregards the prohibitions prescribed in the Provisional Constitution, civil service law, and the requirements for election integrity and fairness as well. Articles 115-119 and 126-129 of the Provisional Constitution prohibit the civil servants and security and intelligence officials to be members of electoral bodies or to participate in political activities unless their resign from their public services six months before participation.
Second, the President and the Prime Minister lack the authority to appoint the electoral committees for the special election of the representatives of the people of Somaliland state. This is well established consensus. Third, other members are known propagandists supporting President Farmajo in the social media. They are paid with public funds provided allegedly by Qatar to insult the opposition figures.
Fourth, most of the members are young and ill equipped to satisfactorily fulfill the awesome responsibilities associated with a challenging political elections. Young supporters are enticed with job and financial payments and used for dirty and dishonest purposes and then replaced with other neophytes, including defectors from Al Shabab.
The agreement on the Indirect Election spells out specific principles for conducting clan based elections. It’s also strengthened with the basic principles governing democratic elections such as independence, professionalism, and integrity of the members of the electoral bodies. In the past four years, the federal government’s handling of elections in the federal member states dissipated public trust.
To ensure credible election, the powerholders at the federal and state levels, the civil society, the traditional leaders, the opposition, national experts, and the representatives of the international community share the responsibility of bargaining and evaluating the selection of the members of the electoral committees through cooperative process.
The election process of Somalia requires constant good faith consultations among Somali political stakeholders and international partners to strengthen public confidence in the legitimacy, transparency, and security of the election outcomes. However, nothing is happening because of President Farmajo’s intransigence boosted by the international partners’ protection and rubber stamping of all his undemocratic caprices.
Rather than engaging opposition leaders for compromise, consensus, and confidence building, President Farmajo mocks opposition leaders who protested against biased electoral committees and describes them as angry and crazy politicians inebriated by power that they are unworthy.
The deputy Prime Minister Mahdi Guled who became famous for demagoguery and delusional limitless praise of “president Farmajo’s unmatched leadership,” told school children gathered at Somali National Theater on Wednesday 18 2020 that President Farmajo will win in the first round of the presidential election to be held sometime in 2021 as it has been done in the elections held by the federal government in Southwest, Galmudug, and Hirshabelle states. In nutshell, this means that the only electoral process President Farmajo and his cronies want is the one which must deliver the continuation of President Farmajo’s rule at any cost.
Sadly, President Farmajo used his 4 year term in office not to advance the monumental task of peace and state building but to make sure the removal of all state leaders from offices through corruption, public division, withholding of legally allocated financial resources, air, see, and land blockade, use of foreign and federal forces for intimidation and arrest, and finally manipulated elections that guaranteed the selection of young parliamentarians who should elect pre-known parliamentary leadership and state presidents sponsored by the federal government.
Four years ended without making any progress on all priorities outlined in the Partnership agreement between the federal government and the international partners at the Meeting held in London, UK on May 11, 2017. The communication and working relationship between the federal government and federal member states stopped in 2018, which worsened the political, security, social, and economic situation of the country. Terrorist group Al Shabab intensified their influence and terror.
The relentless efforts of President Farmajo to replace federal state leaders with handpicked loyalties succeeded in Southwest, Galmudug, and Hirshabelle states but failed in Puntland and Jubbaland states. The ultimate goal of the well-funded campaign of removal of regional states through prolonged crisis was to pave the way for rigged federal election in 2020/2021 that guarantees the continuation of the reign of President Farmajo. The DPM Mahdi Guled confirmed it publicly. The President’s transgressions have provoked all kind of reactions sometimes illegal by the targeted state leaders to resist brutality and injustice, and to force the need for dialogue and negotiation within the context of the provisional constitution.
In the absence of democratic culture and credible judicial system, the international partners played active role of intervention, mediation, and monitoring in the electoral process of 2016/2017. I’m a witness. Despite the 2016/2017 electoral process was far from satisfactory, the active involvement of the international partners has mitigated the concern of the opposition candidates and finally resulted the defeat of incumbent president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and the election of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo on February 8, 2017. With jubilation, the Somali people welcomed the results of the election for better future but today they are unbelievably disappointed and feel cheated.
In contrast, after the election of president Farmajo, the international partners changed their watchdog and accountability activism and chose to remain silent on the widespread corruption and abuse of power of President Farmajo which undercut past democratic gains and neglected all 4 year priorities and commitments. The federal parliament lost its institutional relevance after becoming a tool to the whims of president Farmajo.
The international community’s quick welcoming of the outcomes of undemocratic political processes devastated the democratic spirit of the Somali people. It’s hard to fathom why the international partners, particularly the United Nations, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union abandoned their pre-2017 active role for interventions, accountability, and support of democratic governance. Clan grievances and antagonisms dominate public discourse and degraded dramatically the political environment.
Therefore, since president Farmajo has decided long time ago to ignore all complaints of the state leaders, the opposition, the opinions of foreign and domestic experts, and the public demands, it’s incumbent upon the international partners who are empowered by Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations to hasten to intervene in the unfolding political crisis before it gets out of hand.
Today Somalia is seriously on the brink of social unrest that could degenerate into a political and social mayhem because President Farmajo has brazenly and stubbornly disregarded the respect of the provisional constitution, the good practices of responsible governance and the right of all stakeholders to meaningfully participate in the political decision making process for free and fair elections and other matters of national interest. The public confidence in the electoral process is paramount for peaceful election and legitimate government.
Dr. Mohamud Uluso