Federal Parliament has key role in 2016 electoral plan

Somalia’s Federal Parliament has a significant and essential role to play in endorsing the 2016 electoral plan. The agreement was signed in Mogadishu on April 12th by a number of federal and state leaders, including the Somali President, House Speaker, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, and the leaders of four existing regional states: Puntland, Jubaland, Southwest, and Galmudug. The electoral model agreement ends months of political deadlock, sets the stage for establishing a new Federal Parliament, and ensures continuity of the country’s nascent federal institutions, beyond the August 2016 mandate.

Last week, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president of Somalia, told the U.N. Security Council that Somali leaders had “successfully agreed the implementation roadmap for the 2016 electoral process,” adding that the country was “on track to undergo the historic first democratic electoral process in 47 years”.

Abdiweli Mohamed Ali ‘Gaas’, president of Puntland state in northern Somalia, defended the agreement and spoke of the “difficult compromises” made by Puntland in the interest of preserving Somali national unity.

Amb. Michael Keating, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General to Somalia (SRSG), welcomed the agreement, calling it a “breakthrough” and envisioning that the 2016 process “will be implemented in a much more structured and transparent manner”, in comparison to the 2012 electoral process. “International partners call on Parliament to endorse the agreed electoral process without delay,” the press statement added.

Agreement flaw

The April 12th agreement states that, “The 2016 electoral model and its implementation mechanism shall be tabled to the Federal Parliament for final endorsement”. This clause reserves a necessary check-and-balance power to the Federal Parliament, especially since the agreement contains clauses that grant unwarranted powers to the executive leaders of the regional states.

In particular, concern has been raised about the proposed selection process for federal MPs for both the Upper House and Lower House of Federal Parliament. According to the agreement, “State executives [presidents] will nominate at least two candidates for each seat” of the Upper House, and that each candidate for the Lower House “will be elected by an Electoral College of 50 members…drawn from the sub-clans sharing the seat”.

In summary, some 13,750 citizens (a total of 275 Electoral Colleges across Somalia, whose members are nominated by 135 Traditional Elders) shall vote for 275 MPs of the Lower House, whilst state parliamentarians elect the 54 MPs of the Upper House. The deeper flaw, however, is the power of signature granted to the state presidents.

The agreement states: “The Presidents of the Federal Member States shall duly sign the list of official members of the Upper House of the Federal Parliament for their respective States after SEITs [State-level Election Implementation Unit] forward the certified final results”. The same procedure applies to the Lower House MPs.

Federal Parliament’s role

The pseudo-democratic exercise involving nearly 14,000 Somali citizens to participate and vote directly for Members of Parliament nationally for the first time is a major case study for Somalia’s path to democracy. The dispute over the use of the controversial and divisive 4.5 clan formula lasted eight months, and expectations are currently high for credible national elections.

This first-of-its-kind electoral process in Somalia is fragile. The National Leaders Forum (NLF) – comprising of the agreement’s co-signers – should move to implement the agreement’s mechanics: formulating terms of reference for the FEITS and SEITS, nominating members, and working together to ensure a smooth, transparent, and fair electoral process that is participatory, representative and timely.

Somalia’s existing clan-based Federal Parliament was formed and granted legitimacy through the clan system in 2004, 2009 and 2012 elections. The new agreement envisions a new path to elections, and if adopted “as is”, it seems that a familiar procedure is threatened by a completely new approach of indirect elections and the mighty signature of a single person: a state president, in this case. However, critics warn that new powers granted to state leaders is unnecessary, counter-productive to the democratic aspirations of the electoral process, and could potentially ignite new friction between state governments and local clans, in different parts of Somalia.

Source: Somali Review