In 2016, Somalia faces unusual election process whereby incumbent leaders, who are also candidates, are unjustifiably empowered to write and implement electoral rules as they like and adjudicate disputes. Defiantly, the incumbent leaders are fighting tooth and nail against free and fair election and the public protest and demand for change are falling on deaf ears.
Immediately after the hailed election of 2012, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and his power partners moved away from the adherence to the letter and spirit of 2012 provisional constitution which lays out the fundamental tenets for democratic governance based on the rule of law and separation of institutional powers of the federal government between legislative, executive, and judicial branches for checks and balances. Instead they embraced an ‘Imperial Presidency” in which the President acts as an autocratic ruler whose main mission is to hang on power at any cost while claiming to be democratic.
One of the critical elements of the democratic system of governance is free, fair, and transparent election. But, the federal government declared failure in holding “one person and one vote” election in August 2016. It also delayed to offer an alternative electoral model before the international community intervened in late 2015. The protracted delay of election preparation is part of devious tactics to muddle the election schedule and stifle fair competition.
As a result, an alarming political and security crisis is brewing in Somalia due to the manipulated electoral rulemaking process. The President of the federal government who has been both president and presidential candidate in the last three years presides the process of making election rules under a leadership forum that lacks legitimacy, accountability, and shared vision.
This is a case of conflict of interests that calls into question the results of 2016 election. Independent opinions and analysis, media debates, community complaints, and civil society submissions are deliberately ignored and have no influence in the development of election rules to level the playing-field. Ominous prospects are pervading the public imagination.
The 2016 election rules are conceived to facilitate the election of supporters of the sitting president to the federal parliament so they will automatically guarantee his reelection. Thus, the public is bombarded with messages of forgone victory of the incumbent leader in 2016 election. The electoral advantages devised in favor of the incumbent leaders are:
1. The President and the Minister of Interior and Federal Affairs have direction and oversight control over the implementation of the federal election process. The Minister chairs the Federal Electoral Implementation Team (FEIT) composed of federal government ministers, state ministers, and known partisans of incumbent leaders. He also supervises the State Level Electoral Implementation Teams (SEIT). This defies the general purpose of a credible election.
2. The president and his power partners have exclusive control over the political affairs of Galmudug and Hiiran and Middle Shabelle states, including the appointment of members of SEIT. Also, they have great influence over the election process of members of federal parliament of Somaliland taking place in Mogadishu.
3. The development of the terms of reference (TOR) of FEIT and SEIT is not subject to public scrutiny, parliamentary approval, and judicial review and enforcement. This obviates any challenge to the abuses of the teams.
4. The President and his power partners are blamed for engaging only loyal traditional leaders who will sign off the lists of Electoral Colleges filled with sworn loyalists;
5. Through the electoral teams, the Ministry of Interior and federal affairs control the vetting and approval process of the selection of 275 electoral colleges. Each Electoral College of 51 delegates will elect one member of the federal parliament. It is expected that the electoral teams will use infamous tactics used by the technical committees of 2012 parliamentary selection process and of the federal member state formation process. Opponents have no real opportunities to challenge the misdeeds of the Electoral Teams;
6. The presidents of regional states have the exclusive authority to distribute the allocated seats out of the 54 members of the Upper House of the Federal Parliament among various clan constituencies in their states and then to select and submit two candidates for each seat to their local parliaments for choosing one of the two candidates. This eliminates fair competition among potential candidates for the Upper House. Some clans and individuals allied with the presidents of the regional states and federal government will have the chance to be included in the distribution of seats and candidacy lists;
7. The election rules are not prohibiting the use of public resources, patronage for employment, appointments, and promotions, state security and media apparatus, and corruption for buying election victory;
8. The pushing of the international community to go ahead with flawed electoral process is double-edged sword. It tilts the playing field in favor of incumbent leaders;
9. The lack of independent, impartial, and effective investigation of election frauds and judiciary system or other mechanism for electoral dispute resolution serves the incumbent leader. Opponents face daunting task to challenge the abuses of powerholders and electoral teams.
In my article on “Somalia: The Guidelines for Democratic Clan Based 2016 Electoral Model,” I made the point that because of the exceptional strive of the incumbent to stay in power at all costs, fairness, freedom, and credibility of 2016 electoral process will remain worthless words. The experience of the last 4 years for broken promises and abuses of power has diminished the public trust in government leaders.
The purpose of filling allies of the ruling group in the federal electoral teams is to obstruct and exclude fair minded delegates from the Electoral Colleges, blackmail the traditional leaders who are not in favor of the ruling clique, and falsify the outcomes. Rivals have limited possibility to exercise their legitimate rights of objecting and challenging the unlawful actions of the election teams for no respect to the rule of law, credible judiciary system, and other reliable arbitration mechanism. Establishment of Dispute Resolution Mechanism is for formality and propaganda.
For example, on June 10, stakeholders of Galmudug state issued a statement protesting against the appointment of partisans allied with incumbent leader and his associates to the electoral SEIT and FEIT without formal consultation process. President Abdikarim Hussein Guled of Galmudug state is accused of abandoning his responsibilities to care the reconciliation, security, and welfare of Galmudug population and for devoting full time and energy to the reelection of President Hassan. In response, Galmudug state dismissed the accusations and labeled the stakeholders spoilers who do not deserve consideration and negotiations.
The scheme of manipulating the 2016 election could stoke civil disobedience and chaos. To prevent such possible occurrence for the absence of an enforceable electoral legal framework that levels the playing field, the international community bears the responsibility of assuring the integrity of 2016 election.
Mr. Mohamud M Uluso