Fixing Vision 2016 : Some Options for the Somali Federal Institutions

By: Abdurahman Hosh Jibril


At the end of 2013, the Federal Government of Somalia ( FSG) committed to a bold political document entitled “ Vision 2016” , a blue print to implement all the specific benchmarks called for by the Provisional Constitution of Somalia ( adopted on August 1, 2012) and the principles contained in the New Deal. Read together, these two important documents directed the FGS to speedily carry out various legal and institutional functions within specific time frames. It is these directives that have been turned into Vision 2016, a policy vision that mandates the government to carry it out in a timely manner so as to prepare the nation for elections in 2016.

There is an intense debate within the Somali political actors, the general public and also within the Somali partners in the international community as to what features Vision 2016 should acquire, since most of these stakeholders have joined the unspoken consensus by the public that one-person-one-vote elections will not be possible in 2016, notwithstanding the broken-tape-like repetitions of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Ambassador Nickolas Kay that “ there will be elections in Somalia in 2016”. Consequently, there are various options thrown out within these debates and most of them are convincingly arguable and practical even though some options may sound a bit alarming at first encounter; with a bit of a reflection though, even these are bold, practical and worth studying. The main reason for the groundswell of skepticism on this issue, it is argued, is that none of the essential ingredients for elections are in place and in that vacuum, election cannot be conducted in the fall of 2016.

What are the essential ingredients contained in Vision 2016 that are necessary for an election in 2016 based on one-person-one-vote ( OPOV)?

  • The National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC).
  • An Independent Judicial Service Commission (IJSC)
  • A Constitutional Court
  • Review of the Provisional Constitution
  • A Boundaries and Federations Commission (BFC)
  • A safe and secure environment

As of this date, none of these important deliverables have been completed and it is likely that some of them would take even more time to complete. The most important independent institution that is tasked with elections has not been empaneled yet, although the Federal Parliament of Somalia has approved the NIEC legislation. Among some of the mandates of the NIEC as per Chapter 10, Article of the Provisional Constitution are as follows:

  • To conduct presidential and parliamentary elections
  • To register voters and to continuously revise and verify voters roll.
  • To act as a principal regulator of the political party system
  • To draw up electoral districts
  • To monitor campaign financing of political parties and candidates during elections.
  • To establish a code of electoral conduct for candidates and political parties
  • To resolve election disputes
  • To Facilitate independent elections monitoring and evaluation.

From the forgoing, the rational of the skeptics, is that the soon-to-be instituted NIEC would need a minimum of 3 to 4 years to stand on its feet in order to fulfill its exhaustive mandate (mentioned above), and that it is incapable of conducting the elections envisaged under vision 2016, much less the much bandied about “ indirect elections”. Additionally, the Constitutional court is not in place, a crucial dispute resolution institution of last resort. This is the highest Judicial organ in the country that a particular candidate or, a particular political party can turn to for redress if they are not satisfied with the verdict of the NIEC after a dispute of an election result.

Fixing Vision 2016: The Options

If one sifts through the raging debates, the opinion articles and policy position papers of some prominent politicians and pundits in the last few months, there emerges a typology of options with variations on methods and political directions but the consensus within these options is that there can not be an election based on one-person-one-vote. Here are the Options.

1.  A political party Proportional Representation model ( PR System)

The PR system will treat the entire electorate in the country as one constituency and political parties would contest elections in the entire country and will divvy up seats to its party list wherever it carries the majority vote. It is a system that is used in many countries, especially in post-conflict countries and divided societies as it de-highlights ethnic, religious and other ascribed identities in divided societies. It also has the capacity to accommodate minorities within a majority community, women and vulnerable segments in society. In theory, this system would suit Somalia but for the purposes of 2016, it is unworkable for the following two reasons:

One, there are no political parties in Somalia, only pretentions thereof, much less a political party legislation, a sina qua non of a political party culture. Even if parties were formed soon, they would not have the sufficient capacity to contest elections in the fall of 2016. Second, since the NIEC will not be reasonably operative in the next 12 months as it will lack capacity and resources, the prospect of political parties contesting elections in July/August 2016 would remain a pipedream and illusory.

2.  District-based Indirect Elections (DBIE)  or the Kamal Gutale Model

Kamal Gutale in his article, published in March of this year, acknowledges that OPOV will not realistically be possible and proposes a novel and convincing model that envisions elections; not really traditional elections but indirect elections. He proposes that elections can be contested in the pre-1991 ninety two districts of Somalia but that the electorate (which he terms as electoral colleges) would be reduced to a carefully and equitably selected 1,100 voters in each district who would then elect parliamentarians in a secret ballot, and that all the voters in all the 92 districts (over 100,000 voters) will vote for the president in a popular vote. Although this is a workable model, it has its limitations.

One, the number of voters (1,100) in each district is very small and can attract corruption. Expanding that number to about 5, 000 voters or more would clearly resolve this and deter corruption as it will be nearly impossible for candidates to bribe thousands of voters. That way, candidates will have no other recourse but to “ bribe” voters by way of community projects that benefit the whole community. Second, the non-existence of a robust NIEC would not make it possible for an election of this scale involving 92 districts to bear positive results.

3.  Regional Administrations and Interim Regional Administrations as principal stakeholders on Vision 2016.

This Option holds that since the country is embarking on federalism and since it is nearly impossible for parliamentary elections in 2016, the regions should select their respective parliamentary representatives since the representatives will enjoy the consent of their regional leaders. It is a novel idea worth entertaining but it falls apart on a few crucial grounds.

First, the most fundamental challenge to this model is hinged on constitutional grounds. The federal constitution is clearly predicated on a bi-cameral parliamentary system whereby the regional administrations would ideally elect senators to an upper house and where the federal government would run elections nationally under the auspices of the federal government, and not the regions. As such, this model would be unconstitutional.

Secondly, most emerging regional administrations are having birthing or teething problems as they struggle to build cohesive, fair and inclusive political administrations that can legitimately build solid and predictable administrations that can undertake such a mammoth project, even if the constitutional hurdle is overcome.

Finally, it would be a harkening back to the era of the Road Map signatories where several un-accountable leaders representing a narrow stakeholder base were entrusted to decide on a very important national project. This might have been necessary in 2011/2012 but with our new Provisional Constitution of 2012, it is manifestly clear that we have closed that chapter as we also have discarded the old Charter.

4.  Extension and its variations

Some outside-the-box options call for extensions of some sort. One option is an extension of all Federal Institutions-the Executive and Parliament-for two years beyond August 2016 since direct and indirect elections cannot be carried out by then.

Another radical option being seriously considered by senior members of the emerging political caucuses ( Badbaado, TTQ and MMQ) is a proposition for an early impeachment of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, probably around June and electing a more capable, less divisive and less corrupt leader, who is also, unlike the current president, committed to carry out the reforms necessary to transition Somalia to a more peaceful and democratic country. Of course, it is a political route that is fraught with hurdles but the proponents of this option offer a convincing argument for this route, including legal and constitutional grounds for impeachment, and these include documentable corruption on the part of the President. Members in this camp are of the opinion that this option is the only remaining hope for fixing Vision 2016,: removing from the political scene, the biggest obstacle to Vision 2016 : HSM.

Abdurahman Hosh Jibril is a member of the Federal Parliament of Somalia and the former Minister of Constitutional Affairs in the last Transitional Government of Somalia. He is also on the executive of TTQ also known as the National Reformist Caucus in parliament.

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