Clan-based Selection, the only Practical Option in 2016



The constitutional term for the current Somali president and parliament is coming to end in the fall of 2016. This government was given clear mandates, and topmost among them was to usher in free and fair one man, one vote elections.  The expectation and confidence among the Somali people and the international community was exceptionally high with the new government. Justifiably so, because both were respectively frustrated with the previous transitional federal administrations which had no formal diplomatic recognition from the international partners and lacked the trust of the Somali people.

On July 6, 2015, Somali Federal parliament has approved all the members of the National electoral commission. But to the Somali people’s dismay all hopes of an election fast faded away when the government announced that it is technically, logistically and feasibly impractical to hold elections in 2016. This announcement sadly comes on the eve of the swearing into office, the new members of the National Electoral Commission (NEC).

On September 19th, 2015 the government hosted a three day Consultative Conference in Mogadishu and formed a National Consultative Forum (NCF) tasked to deliberate and determine the best possible format for next year’s parliamentary and presidential elections. The NCF was tasked to carry out nation-wide consultations before reaching a decision on the 2016 election format by the end of this year.

The NCF convened a conference in Mogadishu on October 14th 2015 in which it discussed the best Electoral Process, that is fair, acceptable to all and peaceful that can be conducted in the country come August 2016. The NCF presented the following four different approaches.

The four options:

  • Nation-wide Electoral College: a national electoral college to be formed to elect all 275 MPs.  Such a system could combine the introduction of nation-wide political parties with an electoral system of proportional representation
  • State level Electoral College: electoral colleges to be formed in each existing and emerging Federal Member States to elect MPs representing their respective Federal Member State
  • District-level Electoral College: district-level Electoral College to be formed in each of the 92 districts based on 1991 administrative divisions to elect MPs representing their district.
  • Clan-based Electoral College: Electoral College to be formed on the basis of clan elders but with an enhanced representation to select MPs representing their clans, similar to the 2012 process.

We DanGarad, therefore, after thoroughly critiquing all the 4 models holistically and comparing the merits and the demerits of each with respect to the fragile nature of the Somali people’s politics, the government’s capacity to mitigate risks, the security situation, the knowhow and finally and the most importantly the legitimacy of the outcome of each model; recommend that the 2016 parliamentary elections be clan based 4.5 formula.

First of all, it is important to underscore that this method (4.5) of selecting members of the national assembly is the most absurd and obnoxious among the four mentioned models. It is the most unfair and demeaning to the Somali people in the 21 century. Even the original framers of 4.5 thought it to be a solution to the political quagmire they were faced with then. It was never the best option and is never the best option now, but the only option that could tailor the country back into its lost core.

A bottom up sort of approach to bring people together, so that it could act as the  pivot of a healthy political discourse, and transition the country into all out elections. Fast forward to 2016, the country faces the same dilemma of power sharing and smooth transition of the instruments of power.

Secondly, it is the only one that has been tried and implemented. It is what has formed the current government in 2012. It enjoys some level of tolerance among the ever conflicting interests of Somali people unlike any of the other three proposals. Of course it could be improved and modified to be more transparent and less corrupt.  Hence, DanGarad sees no evil in repeating the only option that was available to us barely 4 years ago since the government mandated to lead the country into elections tremendously failed on all fronts.

Thirdly, any of the proposed methods except the 4.5 disenfranchises the people under the control of the semi-autonomous Somaliland and areas under the Al-shabab suppression. We hear some reports suggesting that Somaliland will be give some special status that we don’t know what it entails. We believe that is an ambiguous process, and as weighty a matter as this that touches on the future of millions of people which might promote further distrust among the communities in Somaliland, DanGarad calls for extra caution.

Sections of the Somali community proposed something they dubbed as, “enhanced legitimacy”, that somehow a 100 or so people collected from each district and from each sub clan can and will select men and women who are more legitimate than the moribund ones in Mogadishu today, is an unrealistic dream that cannot withstand the simplest scrutiny. Traditionally, Somalis had a sultanate system of rulers; the sultan was the head of the sultanate. He had a council of elders who acted as his advisers, the equivalence of the modern day parliaments. Their legitimacy was beyond reproach. They were the alpha and the omega. Albeit the system is being watered down but still every Somali sub clan has one. He may not be respected as such but his legitimacy is not questioned unless he is a bogus one created for political mileage. So those who claim the next parliament to be more legitimate than the current, be warned that what you propose is a better option, not a devolved 4.5 or for that matter a devolved corruption.

4.5 was never meant to transit into another vague selection process by unconstitutional federal states who themselves suffer from credibility issues, who more or less are ethnic enclaves, with an ethnic outlook. If this were to happen, what a retrogressive thinking would it be? The old adage says, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. The federal member states failed to conduct a fair selection process in their individual local states level, they simply lack the capacity and the legitimacy and cannot be trusted with the people future.

In DanGarad’s humble understanding, we recommend the Clan-based Electoral College as the only option that will not open the Pandora box and could minimize foreseeable political tensions, given the amount of time remaining to 2016. Any new selection process at this difficult juncture may lead the country into political uncertainty with dire consequences.  The countries rebuilding is on a cliff and the slightest political bluff during the electioneering period can and will be precariously unpleasant. DanGarad, calls upon all the stake holders, Somalis or non-Somalis to take matters country first and everything else second. All personal interest and power plays and the normal political pull and push can take a back seat for a moment.

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