Somalia polls have been marred by graft and outright thuggery

President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo. [Reuters]

The much-delayed parliamentary and presidential elections in Somalia are now headed to the penultimate stage, with less than 100 Members of Parliament waiting to be elected.

The electoral process was expected to culminate in the presidential election in February last year but was delayed due to lack of preparedness by the current government led by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed Farmaajo, thus leading to violent incidents during protests organised by the opposition group. The violence and protest by the opposition led to a meeting aimed at safeguarding the country’s political stability and security. It led to the implementation of the September 17, 2020 electoral agreement for the indirect parliament and presidential elections.

With the protests and violence under control, Farmaajo tried to extend his term by a further two years in April 2021. However, this was met with fierce objections from the opposition groups while the international community quickly called on the president to endorse the September 17 agreement.   

In accordance with the September 17, 2020 agreement, the elections of the lower house were set for November 16 and were expected to be completed end of December, 2021. This target was missed by far.

The Federal Elections Implementation Team (FEIT), which is overseeing the process with the assistance of the State Electoral Implementation Team (SEIT), has set a February 25, 2022 deadline to complete the elections on the lower house. The conclusion of the parliamentary elections would then lead to the presidential elections, with 329 MPs (275 MPs and 54 Senators), deciding whether to extend Farmaajo’s term for another four years, electing one of the former presidents running against him or ushering in one of the many other candidates.

So far, FEIT has confirmed that all the 54 senators have been elected. In addition, 153 MPs have already taken their seats, leaving 122 seats up for grabs. With the February 25 deadline ticking, the electoral bodies are in a mad rush to meet the deadline.

Unlike in many elections conducted through universal suffrage, the Somali elections are conducted through an indirect electoral process where the 14,000 delegates representing different tribes vote for the MPs, who in turn vote for the incoming president. The country’s clan power-sharing is based on 4.5 system that was adopted to ensure a fair and equal power-sharing. However, this system has been a thorn that has deepened the political crises. The incumbent assumed the role of acting president in February last year when his four-year term expired on February 16, 2021.

The rush to fill the remaining seats is predicated on some of the Federal Member States (FMS) resolving some of the sticking issues. Somalia currently consists of six states namely Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Jubbaland, Puntland, Southwest and Banadir Regional Authority, including the semi-autonomous territory of Somaliland.  

In Hirshabelle, the delay to finalise the election of its MPs is coming to an end after the former head of the Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency Fahad Haji Yasin snatched the controversial seat in Beledweyn. The state’s elections had ground to a halt after Yasin, who is Farmaajo’s aide, demanded to be allocated one of the parliamentary seats from the region. The Hirshabelle SEIT reported Monday, February 21, 2022, that Yasin had secured the seat with a landslide scoring 70 votes out of a possible 95.

Meanwhile in Jubbaland, the dispute on how to move forward with the 16 seats in Gedo and Garbaharey could lead to further delays. Security is cited as one of the main concerns, however, efforts by the federal government to manipulate elections outcomes are creating a major conflict. President Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed Al-Islam Madobe is seeking control of the state’s slot and wants the elections to be moved and conducted elsewhere. 

Somaliland which declared its independence from Somalia and runs its own affairs, is also picking its representatives to parliament and the senate too. With the election for the Somaliland representatives based in Mogadishu, there is suspicion that those elected lean towards the incumbent, Farmaajo who is keen to extend his tenure for another four years.

However, in Galmudug state, a fierce critic of the Somali government, Abdirahman Abdishakur and MP Mahad Salad have the won seats. Abdishakur is the leader of Wadajir party and is running for president too. Close allies of the current president of Puntland Saeed Abdullahi Deni also got elected to join the next parliament and in Southwest state many elected MPs are all young and green horns in politics.

Other challenges facing the electoral body include how to ring-fence the special seats reserved for women (30 per cent) and the youth. Those with an eye on the presidency have been hawking the seats for as much as $2 million each. The level of corruption, manipulation, humiliation and outright thuggery in this election is absurd and many are questioning the legitimacy of next parliament, senate and government.

No date has been fixed for the presidential election that will see Farmaajo come face-to-face with two of his predecessors, Hassan Sheikh Mohamed and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed or any of the newcomers. However, the international community has been demanding that the process be concluded in accordance with the timetable set. With the previous deadline having been missed many are sceptical that the February 25 deadline will be met.

Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble has the onerous task of overseeing the final part of the electoral process. However, constitutionally, should the Prime Minister and FEIT postpone to set a date for the presidential election, two-thirds of the elected MPs can hold a sitting and elect the next president. Though, given the past behaviour of Farmaajo, such a move will unlikely to curry favour with his administration. 

All eyes are now on Farmaajo with the election of all the MPs and senators set to be concluded tomorrow. Will he name a date for the presidential contest? Time will tell. 

Ms Mohamoud is a consultant. Mr Okwembah is a journalist and media consultant.