Mogadishu, Somalia ( SOMALIAONE.NET) – The Somali election process has finally started with 4 out of the 6 regional States elected their senators for the Upper House through an electoral process, which despite some disputes, managed to be agreed upon by most stakeholders. Now, this is the easy part of the entire process as the real prize for many of the political candidates is the Lower House which has a clear and tested constitutional and political role unlike the Upper House.
Given its enormous potential for influence, the fact that many of the Cabinet Ministers will be selected from within it and it has a clear political role, the elections for the Lower House is the most contested in the entire process. This election is also likely to be the most expensive with candidates reportedly paying or prepared to pay incredible sums to influence the outcome of the elections. In some seats there are reports that credible candidates are been bought off by wealthier ones and in others, unlikely candidates been funded to stand only to legitimize a rigged process for an already crowned candidate. This is truly a dangerous start to Somali democracy which is expected to produce a governmentdirectly elected by the people in 2020 through universal suffrage.
It is absolutely crucial that the Somali elections are as credible as possible given that it already failed on delivering one person one vote as promised in 2012. With just over 14000people deciding the political future of Somalia and its people, there is no room for complacency or corruption if the process is to have any real meaning or impact outside the elite political circles of Somalia and the international community.
The key to transparent, fair and credible elections are the Somali elders who are tasked with selecting and managing the electoral colleges which must contain representatives from all the sub-clans of each clan they represent. Undertaking this historic duty requires impartiality and a commitment to putting the interest of the entire nation before low level clan disputes and engaging in favoritism. If clan elders do not exercise their electoral duties responsibly, they will surely create more division and instability in Somalia. At present some political candidates have expressly challenged their tribal elder’s judgments and impartiality. It is crucial that these concerns are addressed as a matter of urgency by the clans themselves and then, if there is no agreement, the agreed Electoral Dispute Resolution mechanism is engaged.
The Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanism must be robust, active and fair. Members of this group must exercise their duties with confidence in all member states and without fear or favour. At present, despite been formed and its membership endorsed, each Member State is only assigned 3 people which may not be enough. In addition, some members of the Dispute Resolution Mechanism have not yet left Mogadishu to attend the Member States they are assigned to despite the completion of the Upper House process in some of these Federal member States. More worryingly, there are reports of FIEIT and SIEIT handling some disputes directly during the Upper House election process and this is not only a blurring of responsibilities but could lead to a conflict of interest and inter-institutional disagreements which will undermine the whole electoral process.
Impartiality is central to a free and fair electoral process. Therefore, the concerns that SIEIT members are directly supporting some candidates over others must be investigated and those found to be engaging in this damaging behavior must be suspended and replaced immediately. If the latter does not happen, the electoral process will be delayed and undermined by continuous disputes surrounding its legitimacy.
We congratulate those regional member states who have produced 30% women in the Upper House elections. However, this commitment must be fully fulfilled in both Houses of Parliament.
Given the present challenges in the electoral process in Somalia and the increasing disputes surfacing, there is a great possibility that there will be further delay. This, of course, will be damaging and financially costly for Presidential candidates but if this setback is to be avoided, all stakeholders must work harder to preserve the impartiality and legitimacy of the election process.
Act for Somalia
Address: KM5, Zope Area
Act for Somalia is non-partisan independent non-governmental Somali advisory and awareness-creation organization based in Mogadishu-Somalia with a Global Reach to promote Peace, Democracy, Human Rights and Civic Engagement.