Somalia: Suggestions for Credible Electoral Process for the Upper House

By Mohamud M Uluso

Besides the worsening humanitarian situation in which about 4.7 million people including more than 300,000 malnourished children below age 5 are in urgent need of food assistance, the international community is extremely uneasy about the 2016 electoral process for the Upper House and House of the People of the federal parliament invested with the responsibility of electing the President of Somalia. The talk over the electoral process has intensely dominated the political agenda of Somalia in the last 2 years with unsatisfactory progress.

Indeed, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) Michael Keating started his briefing to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on 27 September 2016 by stating, “Let me begin immediately what is no doubt for all of us the immediate concern – the electoral process – before I turn to other rated developments in Somalia.” He admitted the sad realities that “the scope for political manipulation of the electoral process remains high,” and that “Somalia continue to face multiple human rights deficits.” Prevention of electoral corruption and manipulations, and respect of human rights, freedoms of expression and association, are keystones for credible electoral process. Unfortunately, the incumbent leaders are blamed for the widespread violations of the human rights committed by the security and judicial institutions of the federal government under their watch.

Unbelievably, Somalia is in a political quagmire due to the aggressive take no prisons policy of the incumbent leaders of the federal government in order to steal the electoral process in broad daylight. The exploitation of 2016 election will discredit the 2020 “one person and one vote election” in Somalia.

The National Leadership Forum (NLF) – an ad hoc national decision making body – ignored the dictates of the provisions of articles 72 and 138 (2) of the provisional constitution dealing with the Upper House of the federal Parliament and decided the establishment of the 1st Upper House in 2016 before the election of the 2nd House of the people. It also decided that 30% of the 54 seats of the Upper House, which means 16 seats, should be reserved to women. Unfortunately, the federal government did not dedicate time and resources to the study of the intricacies and necessary guidelines for the establishment of the 1st Upper House in the context of federal state building and for the empowerment of women and other social groups.

There are 4 existing and 2 emerging regional states (interim administrations) sharing the 54 seats of the Upper House. The 4 existing regional states (interim administrations) are Puntland (11 seats), Galmdudug (8 seats), Southwest (8 seats), and Jubbaland (8 seats), controlling 35 seats. The 2 emerging regional states are Somaliland (11 seats) and Hiraan and Middle Shabelle regions (8 seats), controlling 19 seats. The composition of the 54 seats of the 1st Upper House will be 38 males and 16 females, representing federal member states and clan constituencies.

The Federal Indirect Electoral Implementation Team (FIEIT) requested the NLF to resolve the outstanding political issues related to Somaliland. In the meantime, notwithstanding the protests against the power of nominating candidates given to the regional executives, FIEIT requested the existing and emerging regional states to submit the nomination list of at least 2 candidates for each seat allocated to them before October 5, 2016. It also declared that the polling of the Upper House seats for Hiraan and Middle Shabelle will take place in Mogadishu.

However, incumbent Prime Minister H. E. Omar Abdirashid and traditional leaders of Hiraan region strongly objected the FIEIT decision. The SRSG also come out against FIEIT declaration and told the UNSC that “the FIEIT declaration that voting for the regions of Hiraan and Middle Shabelle should take place in Mogadishu rather than in those two regions, could exacerbate clan differences related to the formation of the last remaining proto-federal member state.” Thus, the electoral model and the locations for choosing the Upper House seats of Hiraan and Midlle Shabelle regions and of Somaliland are uncertain.

It has been emphasized repeatedly the need to spell out in detail the different roles of various electoral institutions, the level of public participation, and the administrative procedures in choosing the members of the Upper House of the federal parliament. Specifically, there is a need for the allocation of electoral responsibilities and authorities between the regional states and the Indirect Electoral Teams. More significantly, although long time has been lost, the people needs orientations for understanding their rights and responsibilities, the administrative and dispute resolutions procedures. That will help the appreciation of and participation in the electoral process. Accountability needs verifiable responsibilities and authorities.

For example, considering the stratification of clan structure and related claims, the first step is the distribution of the seats allocated to each regional state among various clans with some sort of persuasive efforts. The distribution must be seen as participatory process that improves acceptance of the outcomes.

It is the responsibility of the presidents to engage stakeholders for the nomination of at least 2 or more candidates for each seat. The next step is the nomination of recommended candidates for endorsement by the executive composed of the presidents, vice president (s), Ministers, State Ministers, and Deputy Ministers. The endorsed candidates should be submitted to the FIEIT and SIEIT for the verification of their qualifications and inclusion of women before their submission to the regional assemblies for vetting and voting. The final stage is the voting of assemblies for the candidates for each seat individually and the certification of winners.

The presidents of the regional state will sign the certifications of the electoral winners on the basis of the official communications from the speakers of the regional assemblies. After receiving the certifications from presidents and making sure that all electoral disputes are formally resolved or disposed, FIEIT as custodian will officially publish the elected members of the Upper House.

All steps must be formally communicated to the public in real time for improving public trust in governance. The first meeting of the 1st Upper House of the federal Parliament will take place in accordance with the rules for the transfer of responsibilities between outgoing and incoming parliaments.

The credibility of the electoral process could be tainted by four scenarios. First, based on the bad experience on the nomination of FIEIT and SIEIT, there are growing complaints about the unrestrained power of regional executives and SIEIT over the nomination of candidates for the Upper House and the marginalization of genuine traditional leaders to influence the selection of the electoral colleges. Second, the presidents of regional state could nominate candidates without getting formal recommendation from the traditional leaders of the clans (constituencies) behind each seat. Third, most probably, regional presidents could bypass the executives for endorsement because they exclusively exercise the executive power. Fourth, the regional presidents could nominate for each seat a close ally and dummy candidate to ensure the victory of the ally through different tactics such as withdrawal of the dummy candidates before voting takes place in the assemblies. Prevention of these and other fraudulent actions are very critical.

Had it not been the disastrous failure of the leaders of the federal government in the preparation of a fair electoral system, the indirect electoral process (IEP) would have been a stepping stone for democratic experiment undertaken by a clan-divided society. The preparation of the IEP has been sullied by the lack of political goodwill and genuine efforts to draft an electoral process that is in compliance with the Guiding Principles for the 2016 Electoral Process agreed upon on August 1, 2015. The guiding principles are inclusivity, fairness, freedom, transparency, accountability, uniformity, credibility, clarity, and accessibility to complaints and appeals procedures. Credible electoral process in 2016 marks the transition towards stability and confidence building in governance in Somalia.

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