Somalia leaders expand Upper House in ‘unconstitutional’ move
In another controversial move, eight leaders representing federal and state governments in Somalia have agreed to expand the Upper House of federal parliament from 54 senators to 72 senators.
The National Leaders Forum (NLF) comprises of three federal leaders – the president, the prime minister and the house speaker – alongside the presidents of five regional states. The federal leaders’ term in office expired in Sept. 2016 and the country’s presidential election has been delayed three times.
The NLF issued a communiqué dated on Dec. 25, after 11 days of deliberations in Mogadishu. According to the communiqué, the NLF listened to presentations by the Independent Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanism (IEDRM) committee, the Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT), and foreign diplomats including the UN Special Envoy to Somalia, Michael Keating.
The communiqué also noted that the NLF “gave time to resolve the distribution of seats in the Upper House” of federal parliament and held “extensive discussions” on the ongoing drought across the Somali regions.
‘All candidates may re-contest’
The NLF announced that, after its extensive meetings with the IEDRM, it had decided that the IEDRM “should review” all cases under investigation.
The IEDRM annulled 11 parliamentary seats and barred some candidates from re-contesting. However, the NLF decision reverses this process and permits every candidate – including those accused of committing acts of bribery, intimidation and fraud – to re-contest their seats.
Last week, the UN’s Ambassador Keating sent a strongly worded letter to Somali leaders regarding the IEDRM’s role, including a veiled threat that unaddressed electoral malpractices would bear “serious negative consequences” for Somalia’s next federal government.
Under the Somali federal constitution, the Upper House of federal parliament comprises of 54 senators representing the regional states.
However, after two weeks of deliberations, the NLF leaders decided to bypass the federal constitution and add 18 more senators. Each of Somalia’s six regional states – including the separatist Somaliland region – was granted three additional Upper House seats.
Former Somali MP Abdi Hosh has called the decision to expand the Upper House from 54 to 72 senators “illegal and unconstitutional”. Mr Hosh was Somalia’s federal constitution minister (2011-2012), as the country’s federal constitution was being reviewed and ratified.
Somalia’s federal leaders have remained in office, despite their terms of office expiring four months ago. The country’s next presidential election remains undecided and the federal parliament is still incomplete.
It is not clear what long-term impact these changes will bear on the Somali political landscape, but the legality and authority of decisions issued by federal leaders in office in a “caretaker” capacity is questionable and the country’s next federal parliament is expected to uphold the federal constitution.