Parliament’s decision and the prospects for 2016 Somali elections
SOMALI REVIEW EDITORIAL
On July 28th, the Council of Ministers and the Federal Parliament of Somalia declared that it is “not possible” to hold “one-man, one-vote” nationwide elections in Somalia by August 2016, when the current government and parliament’s term in office expires.
The decision hardly came as a person to those who follow Somali politics. While Vision 2016 envisions national elections by August 2016, less than a year away, many experts and ordinary Somalis have long believed that holding popular elections nation-wide within such a short timeframe is unrealistic.
The country is politically fragmented, the Federal Government and the regional states have strained relations, and some areas remain under the control of anti-government Al Shabaab group. Competing foreign policies and disregard for a national authority continue to entrench the culture of corruption, power abuse, impunity and division.
There are ongoing discussions of comparing a return to the old model clan nominations for Federal Parliament (based on divisive 4.5 clan formula, which the Federal Constitution explicitly bans as a power-sharing model beyond 2012 elections) or a new model that empowers selected constituents (as “representatives of the people”) to vote for new MPs in Federal Parliament.
The second option is fraught with unsolved questions, such as: How will the 275 MPs be divided among Somalia’s former 18 regions?
The 4.5 clan formula was a clean-cut figure that institutionalized numeric balance among all major clan-families. A region or district-based model requires unprecedented cooperation, funding and logistics, and population figures upon which to base the constitutional concept of proportional representation. The Federal Government was recently under fire for publishing a Population Estimate Survey for Somalia (PESS), after all regional administrations accused the Ministry of Planning of unfairness and misrepresentation. Suffice to say that the numbers game unnecessarily risks reigniting new conflict or potentially worsening an already delicate political situation across Somalia.
A national election in Somalia is feasible next year if conditions demanding reconciliation, cooperation and state building supersede all other interests or concerns. This country that has not held democratic elections in 46 years and spent more than half that time (25 years) in conditions of state collapse, fragmentation and anarchy. Nation building is a long, arduous process that requires unity, steely resolve and resources. Positive federal-state and inter-state relations form the foundation for a new start for Somalia.